Faster cervical screening service for Norfolk women
Women in Norfolk are getting their results from cervical screening faster – thanks to the success of a pilot scheme.
Virtually without exception, the results of every test in the NHS Norfolk area were returned to the patients within two weeks. In many cases, patients had their results in just seven days.
Fiona Kelly, Screening Programmes Lead at NHS Norfolk, said: “It is superb result and a tribute to the hard work of the teams involved.
“It is clearly reassuring for women to have their results quicker. It minimises any worry they might have and maximises the speed that treatment can be given if required.”
The two laboratories which process cervical screening samples from women in the NHS Norfolk area both took part in a pilot scheme to improve their procedures and speed up results.
The teams are: The Norfolk and Waveney Cellular Pathology Network based at the Cotman Centre on the Norwich Research Park and also the West Anglian Pathology laboratory in Newmarket.
Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, added: “We are very impressed with the achievement of both these labs. Their hard work translates directly into better care for the women of Norfolk.”
Consultant pathologist Dr Xenia Tyler, of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “This marked increase in efficiency has been achieved with the help of NHS Improvement.
“Staff took up the challenge to find ways to save time and improve efficiency, working with colleagues in Primary Care to achieve results without compromising on quality. We are now working to maintain and build on this achievement in the future.”
The Norwich laboratory was a pilot site for the new liquid-based test which replaced the smear. It is also currently one of three pilot sites in England which are pioneering further new testing methods. It is expected these will further improve screening for those more vulnerable to the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is responsible for 70% of all cervical cancer.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Histopathology and Cytopathology departments merged with their counterparts at the James Paget in 2005 to create the Norfolk and Waveney Cellular Pathology Network. This created one of the largest NHS histopathology and cytopathology departments in the country. It receives approximately 52,000 surgical tissue requests a year and undertakes approximately 60,000 cervical screening tests a year from most of Norfolk and part of Suffolk
Its improvement in cervical screening testing is impressive: In 2008, just ten out of every 100 results were turned round by the NNUN lab in two weeks. Now that figure is 100 out of 100.
The team reported a sudden rise in the number of cervical screening tests carried out following the sad death of Jade Goody, the TV celebrity, last year. It rose by upwards of 85% during March and April.
Fiona Kelly said: “It is important to stress that everyone who receives a letter from their GP should go for their screening – it is a potential life saver.
“Equally, anyone who receives a recall letter should visit their GP as soon as possible.”
Women aged 25-49 are invited for free cervical screening every three years and women aged 50-64 every five years. Women over 65 are invited if their previous three tests were not clear or if they have never been screened.
Nevertheless, any abnormal bleeding or untoward difficulties require investigation. Women reporting post-coital or intermittent bleeding should speak to a Practice Nurse.
“Some women still find it difficult to speak to a doctor or nurse, however vigilance and discussion can be a life saver,” said Fiona Kelly.
About 2,800 women develop cervical cancer each year. It causes approaching 1000 deaths each year in the UK and is the twelfth most common cancer in women of all ages – the second most common cancer in women younger than 35.
However it can be prevented in 75% of cases by early detection through screening.