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Cervical screening

Published on 02 April 2020

What's changing in the Scottish Cervical Screening Programme?

Implementation of HPV testing

From early 2020, human papillomavirus (HPV) testing will replace cervical cytology (looking at cells under a microscope) as the first screening test. Cytology-based tests will be used for women who test positive for HPV. The change is happening because HPV testing is a better way of identifying women at risk of cervical cancer.

The HPV test will be carried out using the same sample of cells taken during a cervical screening test, so the cervical screening experience for women will not change.

HPV is a common virus transmitted during sexual contact. There are links between high-risk HPV types and the development of abnormal cells. Those cells can cause cervical cancer. HPV is a primary cause of invasive cervical cancer.

The developments will also see Scotland's cytology laboratory service reconfigured from the current seven cytology labs run by NHS boards. The changes will see two ‘super labs’ deliver both HPV and cytology testing. These labs will be centrally commissioned.

How will the cervical screening pathway change as a result of HPV testing?

If testing finds that a woman does not have HPV, her chances of developing cervical cancer within five years are very small. Therefore, her next routine cervical screening appointment will be in five years, regardless of her age.

Cytology-based tests will be used for women who test positive for HPV. Their pathway and subsequent follow-up will differ according to the test results.

HPV testing will be introduced for all of Scotland at the same time from early 2020.

For further information take a look at the Health Scotland website for FAQs about the changes.

Alternatively, you can get in touch with the project team:

Hr-HPV Implementation Project Manager, Joanne Milne –

Hr-HPV IT Implementation Project Manager, Ross Walker –

Implementation Programme Support, Donna McLean –