National Cervical Screening Program Policies

Information for the general public about the national policies, governance and quality and safety of the National Cervical Screening Program

Page last updated: 25 November 2020 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

What is the National Cervical Screening Program?

The National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) is a population based screening program that aims to reduce the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer.

It was established in 1991 as a jointly funded and governed program of the Australian Federal and state and territory governments.

What are the National Cervical Screening Program policies?

The National Cervical Screening Program policies provide guidance on evidence based best practice on cervical screening in Australia.

From 1991 to 30 November 2017, the Program recommended women who have ever been sexually active between the age of 18 and 69 years to have two yearly Pap tests. Between 1991 and 2002 the Program has reduced cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates by 50 percent. Since 2002, there has been a plateau in incidence and mortality rates.

In May 2015, the Australian Government accepted the recommendations of the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) that were reported in April 2014 and agreed to implement the renewed NCSP.

On 1 December 2017, the Program introduced new recommendations for cervical screening. From this date asymptomatic women aged 25 to 74 years should have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years. The new recommendations together with HPV vaccination are predicted to further reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates by up to 30%.

There are three national policies available below:

Who governs the NCSP?

The NCSP is overseen by the Standing Committee on Screening of the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council.

Quality and Safety Monitoring

A key component of a population based screening program is quality and safety monitoring. The NCSP Quality and Safety Monitoring Committee (QSMC) was established in 2014 to provide advice on quality and safety aspects of the NCSP and review program performance data.

The QSMC has developed a Quality Framework. The Quality Framework provides the quality principles for the Program and defines how it is to be measured, monitored and evaluated so that the high standards of program management and service delivery will be met and maintained.

The QSMC position statement outlines the committee’s expectations regarding the performance of the renewed Program in comparison to the Pap program. It provides clarity around the interpretation of early data on the renewed Program, particularly the predicted initial increase in detected high grade abnormalities.