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Resources for Health Professionals

Temporary changes to the way cervical screening samples are processed in the laboratory

Temporary changes to the way cervical screening samples are processed in the laboratory have been introduced from March 2023. This is to manage the current backlog.

Co-testing has been introduced as an interim measure on all samples sent as part of the Cervical Screening Programme. This means samples will be tested in a two-step process as follows.

1.         Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing (for specific ‘high risk’ types of HPV), followed by

2.         Cytology investigation (examination under a microscope)

Step 1 will be used to prioritise samples for cytology. If the sample tests negative for HPV the chances of a patient developing a cancer are very low. However, under these arrangements, all specimens will still undergo cytology in due course.

The new temporary process aims to manage the clinical risk caused by delays in cytology investigations by identifying those patients who are at higher risk of cervical cancer.


FAQS relating to temporary changes

Cervical Screening FAQs Professional

FAQs for service users/public 


GP Letter templates for use during period of temporary laboratory changes

These letters are for use by GP practices, when sending out results to women who have had a cervical screening test. Please note that the screening logo should be removed if the wording of the letter is altered.

HPV Status Cytology Action
Negative Negative Routine Recall
Negative Mod-Severe Dysk Refer to Colposcopy
Negative Border-Mild Dysk Routine Recall
Positive Negative Recall in 12 months
Positive Mod-Severe Dysk/Border-Mild Dysk Refer to Colposcopy


General resources for the NI Cervical Screening Programme

Template Practice Protocol for Cervical Screening


Audit tool for Cervical Screening Sample Takers


Cervical Cancer Audit 


Leaflets (link to leaflets hosted on PHA website)


Useful resources to make screening more accessible:

  • A patient information video showing what to expect following a cervical screening invitation can be found at the link below:

Watch cervical screening information video

This video is also available in:

  • The charity Beyond Words has published a wordless picture story ‘An Easy Guide to Cervical Screening’. Click here to view a copy.


Signposting service users to other resources:

PHA Cervical Screening Programme

NI Direct- Cervical Screening 

NI Direct – Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust