Population Health Specialist, Anna Thorpe, shares this review of Pegasus Health’s efforts to improve cervical screening rates among Canterbury women.
A lot has been happening in the cervical screening space this year, as part of a concerted effort to increase cervical screening numbers. Rates have been dropping over the past few years and the equity gap between ethnicity groups has been growing. The government target for cervical screening is 80% of eligible people being screened every three years. In comparison, as of July 2022 the Pegasus Health rate of cervical screening sat at 66.8%, with Māori at 64%, Pacific at 58.2% and Asian at 63.7%.
To increase cervical screening, several initiatives have been progressed over the past few months. Firstly, Pegasus Health has expanded the funding criteria for free cervical screens, removing the Community Services Card requirement that has been present since March 2021.
From 1 September 2022, the following groups can access funding for a cervical screen:
- All eligible Māori, Pacific and Asian women aged 25–69 years old
- Young Māori, Pacific, and Asian women under 25 years old who started screening before November 2019 (when the screening age started at 20 years of age) will continue that pathway
- All eligible women 30–69 years old who are overdue for a smear (over 5 years since having one)
- All eligible women 30–69 years old who have never had a smear.
Secondly, Pegasus Health has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ScreenSouth. This reflects the high value of the partnership with a new targeted practice approach in Waitaha Canterbury.
Ten practices have been selected with lower rates of screening, higher numbers of Māori, Pacific and Asian women and low rates of claiming for free smears.
They include seven Pegasus Health practices and three practices with Christchurch and Waitaha PHOs. The seven Pegasus Health practices are:
- Union and Community Health (Piki Te Ora)
- New Brighton Healthcare
- Etu Pasifika
- Linwood Medical Centre
- Te Aranga Community Health
- ProMed Doctors
- Cranford Street Medical Practice
A new role based at ScreenSouth is starting to support these practices by contacting eligible women who are due, overdue or unscreened.
This is done by assisting with making appointments, arranging transportation, support for screening as necessary, assisting with data matching, referring to alternative screening providers for some and supporting system changes to improve screening rates.
Thirdly, Pegasus Health has recently partnered with the University of Otago to run a pilot research study for HPV screening which will be nationally launched by the National Cervical Screening Programme in July 2023.
Canterbury is the only region in the South Island to be involved with this HPV testing pilot, as part of three regions across the country. Five randomly selected Pegasus Health practices are involved, with the aim of enrolling 1,000 women to participate in the study to trial either the HPV self test at home, the practice, or to be tested for highrisk HPV through cytology. Findings will help the development of the national HPV testing in 2023.
All initiatives will be monitored and reported on a quarterly basis. This will assist the initiatives to be evidence based and will enable them to be tweaked to increase effectiveness.