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$100,000 Scholarship for Cervical Screening Provided to Hunter New England General Practices.

Forty-five rural and remote general practices across the Hunter New England region will receive a scholarship to complete the Well Women’s Screening Scholarships Project through Family Planning, thanks to $100,000 in funding from the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECC PHN).

Changes to cervical screening (introduced from 1 July 2022) mean that women can screen themselves within the practice setting. Forty-five nurses from 45 practices, initially in rural and remote regions from Cessnock to Tenterfield, will undergo the necessary training to facilitate the screening.

The PHN annual core needs assessment revealed ongoing GP workforce issues and restrictions implemented due to the pandemic, placed many cancer screening programs under temporary suspension. According to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, each month a nationally supported screening service was suspended, more than 140,000 people across the country missed or delayed their cervical screening.

Katie Ireland, Practice Manager at Northwest Health in Tamworth says her practice applied for the scholarship to get more nurses certified. “Northwest health has three practice locations, so having additional trained nurses provides options for patients in more locations.”

“The support the practice has received from the PHN’s primary care improvement officers has enabled us to improve the care provided to our patients. We have been trained on updating patient’s records from sources outside of the clinic. Having access to current information helps us to provide better care by streamlining our recall process.”

The PHN CEO Richard Nankervis says the Well Women’s Screening Scholarships tick many boxes within the PHN’s preventative health strategy. “Screening programs provide an opportunity for general practice to play a key role in the early detection and management of a range of cancers. The PHN is committed to working alongside general practice to improve cancer screening participation rates and reduce the risk of cancer within targeted population groups.”

“Initiatives such as these ease the load on GPs by allowing trained nurses to facilitate the screening. In a time when our GP practices are feeling the burden of staff shortages and workforce fatigue, these efficiencies go a long way to alleviate stress in the provision of primary care while also providing the best outcomes for patients.”

To support the Well Women’s Screening Scholarships Project, the HNECC PHN has developed a Cervical Screening Quality Improvement Program, which aims to work with General Practices to improve the uptake of and access to cervical screening services. Participating General Practices will have the opportunity to review current systems and processes and build upon current services and capacity aiming to increase cervical screening in practice.

Practices who join the program will participate over a 6-month period, with monthly group education sessions, by providing monthly de-identified data and participating in continuous quality improvement activities. In return the practices will receive a General Practice data analysis, access to Cancer Screening Community of Practice, virtual PHN support meetings (focusing on their practice support needs), access to PHN Cancer Screening Quality Improvement Toolkit inclusive of quality improvement cycles and the provision of tailored Primary Care Improvement Officer and Cancer Screening Subject Matter Expert support.

Based on our PHN Needs Assessment and data provided by our general practices and health planning team, scholarships will be offered to nurses employed by General Practice located in LGAs with under-screened cancer screening participation rates below the NSW state rate, with high at-risk population groups who have minimal/no access to cervical screening services.

About Cervical Cancer and Screening

About 800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Australia each year, and about 80 per cent of these cases occur in women who have never screened or were not up-to-date with their screening.

The Australian Government has announced that all women under the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) will be able to self-collect their own screening sample from 1 July 2022.

From 1 July 2022, current eligibility criteria for access to self-collection under the NCSP Self-collection Policy will be removed. This change means that self-collection will be available to all people with a cervix under the NCSP and will no longer be restricted to under-screened or never-screened women.

This change is supported by evidence showing that HPV tests performed on self-collected samples are as safe and accurate as HPV tests performed by a clinician.

The change will give participants a choice in screening method – either self-collected (within a health practice) or clinician collected, which is expected to increase participation in cervical screening and support better outcomes in under-screened women.

The change also has the potential to remove the cultural and personal barriers that currently discourage some women to screen, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, culturally and linguistically diverse women, and gender and sexually diverse people.


For more information: Rebecca Brennan, Communications and Public Relations Manager 0437 478 138

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