Cervical screening, a smear test, is vital to women’s healthcare. It can detect abnormal cells on the cervix before they have a chance to develop into cervical cancer. Gateshead Health’s pathology department provides cervical screening services to women across the North East and Yorkshire.
The cervical screening service in Gateshead is one of only eight laboratories in England providing cervical screening services for the NHS Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP).
These eight laboratories deliver an average of 300,000 tests every working day to support the nation’s health services, and the North East and Yorkshire service covers the largest geographic area of any of the eight laboratories.
In this short video, we take a quick peek behind the scenes at the pathology lab and focus on the dedicated services for cervical screening.
The laboratory processes around 520,000 samples annually in its state-of-the-art laboratory, and its dedicated courier service transports samples from over 1800 locations. A dedicated helpline (0800 707 6060) is available to assist sample takers and offer advice where required.
The laboratory in Gateshead Health is UKAS accredited to ISO15189, which means the accreditation underpins confidence in the quality of medical laboratories through a process that verifies their integrity, impartiality and competence.
Women aged 25 to 64 are eligible for cervical screening every three to five years, depending on their age and previous test results. It is essential to attend regular screenings, even if you feel healthy and have no symptoms, as early detection is critical to preventing cervical cancer.
The laboratory uses high-throughput, cutting-edge analysers to test for 14 high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) types. HPV is a common virus, and infection with HPV does not mean that the patient will have a cervical abnormality. Most patients will clear the virus; it is a persistent infection with HPV that is most likely to cause cervical abnormalities. Around 16% of the samples tested are positive for HPV and require a cytology test (look at the cells under a microscope) to be performed.
About 65-70% of samples will be cytology-negative (all cells are normal) and tested again in 12 months to see if the HPV virus has cleared. The 30-35% that have a cervical abnormality are referred to Colposcopy via our electronic direct referral system.
Over 95% of the received samples are requested electronically, and our laboratory is the only one that checks the patient screening history and sampling eligibility before the sample arrives in the department. This allows a unique code to be allocated to the sample so that most negative samples can be tested and auto-authorised in the laboratory on the day of receipt. This advancement in auto-authorised processing enables the screening turnaround times to fall firmly within the NHSCSP 14-day turnaround target.
Trudy Johnson, North East and Yorkshire Cervical Screening manager, said:
These innovative solutions provide an outstanding service to our patient population. Still, the actual quality of the laboratory comes from the conscientious, committed staff, who put the patient at the centre of everything they do.Trudy Johnson, North East and Yorkshire Cervical Screening manager
If you are due or overdue your cervical screening or have any concerns about your cervical health, contact your registered GP or Sexual Health Clinic to schedule an appointment.
Their friendly and knowledgeable staff will happily answer any questions and provide the care you need to stay healthy.