Cervical screening provider leads are responsible for the quality and effectiveness of NHS Cervical Screening Programme services provided within an organisation.
Whether NHS, private or standalone, all organisations must have a provider lead in place if they provide one or more NHS services for:
- cervical cytology and high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) testing
- cervical histopathology
Provider leads, previously known as hospital-based programme co-ordinators, play a vital role in the audit of invasive cervical cancers and in ensuring local programmes provide the best possible service.
It is essential that the delivery of the role remains consistent and effective.
PHE has published new guidance describing the role and its responsibilities relating to guidance on quality and performance, organisation of meetings and attendance, handling of screening incidents and audit and training.
There is also information on the accountability and governance of the role within the provider organisation and working relationships across other organisations.
Identifying the right people for the role
The organisation providing cervical screening services is responsible for identifying and employing an individual to do this role.
The appointed person must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of screening programme pathways.
They should also be of sufficient seniority to be comfortable with discussions at board level and have the skills to be able to effect change and escalate concern in challenging circumstances.
People likely to be able to fulfil the role include:
- consultant cellular pathologists
- non-training grade experienced senior colposcopists/consultant colposcopists
- laboratory lead biomedical scientists (BMS)/consultant BMS
- senior nurse colposcopists/lead colposcopy nurses
The provider lead will have working relationships with lots of other organisations and professional colleagues, including:
- divisional boards
- medical directors and chief executives
- leads for gynaecology, colposcopy, cytology, histopathology and virology
- Public Health England’s Screening Quality Assurance Service (SQAS)
- NHS England’s screening and immunisation teams
- community and sexual health clinics
- primary care
Our new guidance will be of interest to all hospital-based coordinators, trust chief executives, screening programme staff, commissioners and others. It will also be of interest to professionals who may consider taking on the role in future.
Those working in cervical screening will be aware of big changes in preparation for the introduction of HPV primary screening.
Getting ready for this major change while maintaining the quality of the programme is our top priority and this new guidance for provider leads is one way we will continue to ensure the quality of cervical screening.