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Source: New Zealand Government

Parliament has taken another step to help reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer, with the Health (National Cervical Screening Programme) Amendment Bill passing its third reading.

“I am very pleased by the robust consideration this Bill has received. It will ensure technology allows healthcare providers to directly access people’s cervical screening histories on the national register,” Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

“This will enable those providers to have the most up to date clinical information when a participant attends an appointment for either cervical screening or follow-up of screening results.

“Current practice is inefficient and unnecessary. The delay in accessing this vital information, can mean screening decisions are not made on the spot, and an extra appointment may be needed. This may deter women from seeking the help they need, and may delay necessary treatment.”

The Bill will support the planned upgrade to the register with the development of a new primary cervical screening test. Budget 2021 included up to $53 million to implement the new screening method.

This test, which is a simple and quick swab that women can choose to do themselves, will detect the human papillomavirus (HPV) – which causes cervical cancer.

The legislative changes mean health workers will be able to directly access the National Cervical Screening Programme Register for the purpose of conducting their work.

This includes health professionals who provide services to participants along the cervical screening pathway; laboratory and colposcopy health professionals, and associated administration staff; and screening support services staff.

All four amendments to the Bill will enable improvements to front-line services for women.

They are:

  • Minor changes to the definitions of ‘diagnostic test’, ‘screening test’ and ‘specimen’
  • Changes that relate to the disclosure of information, for the purpose of enabling the compilation and publication of non-identifiable statistics from the cervical screening register
  • An amendment to the Kaitiaki Regulations
  • A new clause 6A provides clarity on the Ministry’s obligations to protect data that identifies Māori participants

“It’s fantastic to celebrate the passage of this Bill, so that improvements to front-line services for women can be realised as quickly as possible,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“And it’s really important that women who are due for screening continue to follow the existing process, rather than waiting for the self-administered testing to roll out in 2023.”

The National Cervical Screening Programme was established in New Zealand in 1990, and has been one of the most successful cervical screening programmes in the world.

The Kaitiaki Regulations provide for the National Kaitiaki Group, who have a role in protecting the disclosure and use of information that is on – or from – the National Cervical Screening Register and identifies participants as being Māori.

The primary legislative changes relate to section 112 of Part 4A of the Health Act.

Controls will be in place to ensure the information on the National Cervical Screening Programme Register is secure, including:

  • the access will be ‘read only’ look-up access
  • people granted access will be given a secure username and password
  • the people provided with direct access to information on the Register will also remain subject to the Privacy Act 1993 (including the Health Information Privacy Code 1994), relevant health professional regulatory constraints, and relevant employment and contract law
  • the National Cervical Screening Programme manager will retain the administrative ability to control who has secure direct access to the Register by issuing (and removing) access, and putting conditions on access (in accordance with new section 112JA(3), in clause 6 of the Bill)
  • the way in which direct access to the Register is provided and administered will remain subject to audit

MIL OSI