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The Ministry of Health, National Screening Unit (NSU) have upcoming changes to the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP). The NCSP are increasing the eligible screening start age from 20 to 25 years of age.

Currently, women aged 20 to 69 years are eligible to participate in the NCSP. Primary care service providers have primary responsibility for managing the initial invitation (ie. first recall inviting patient to start screening) and the ongoing recall process for patient participating in the programme.

The NCSP Register holds all patient’s cervical screening information and provides secondary support for recalling patient enrolled in the NCSP overdue for screening.

 Context for change

This decision to change the eligible screening start age from 20 years to 25 years has been made based on a strong body of evidence that screening patient between 20 and 24 years of age provides little benefit to patient and has the potential to cause harm. The primary reason for this is because screening is not effective in this age group at preventing cervical cancer.

Since the start of the NCSP in 1990, there has been no reduction in rates of cervical cancer for patient under 25 years old despite large reductions in both cancer incidence and mortality for patient older than 25 years of age.

The age change is in line with changes made in many other countries, including Australia, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Norway. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer also recommends that cervical screening begins at 25 years old.

Function to automate changes 

A new menu item is available to system administrators

Change the Start Age in Task Batches for Cervical Smears to Age 25y.

New Cervical Smear Tasks with a task code of ‘CX’ or ‘ZCX’ created automatically for regular patients will now have a start age of 25yrs of age. 

Move future recall due dates for Cervical Smears forward to age 25yrs.

The due date for Cervical Smear tasks with a task code of ‘CX’ or ‘ZCX’ for women age below 25yrs will be reset to start on their 25th birthday.  (This will apply to tasks with a due date at age 20y. If recalls have already been completed for patients under 25y their due dates will have been updated, and they will not be moved to 25y by this function) 


 The Cervical Smear Audit report and IPIF indicators have been updated with a target age range 25-69 yrs.