National Cancer Screening Register - Statement by Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy

Due to the complexity of assimilating and migrating data from eight state and territory cancer registers into one register, the start date for Australia’s first National Cancer Screening Register has been delayed.

Page last updated: 23 February 2017

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23 February 2017

Due to the complexity of assimilating and migrating data from eight state and territory cancer registers into one register, the start date for Australia’s first National Cancer Screening Register has been delayed.

Since May 2016, the Federal Department of Health has been working closely with its program partners, including Telstra Health, the contracted Service Provider, states and territories, healthcare providers, the Department of Human Services and others to deliver the national register to begin operating from March 2017.

It is now apparent that based on the current schedule, the Register will not be ready in time for the publicised commencement dates which are currently 20 March 2017 for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and 1 May 2017 for the National Cervical Screening Program.

Other factors that have contributed to the delay include a lengthy pause during the federal election and the later than expected passage of the enabling legislation for the Register.

The Department of Health and its program partners remain firmly committed to delivering the Register as early as possible within the 2017 calendar year.

We understand how critical it is for the broader sector to be provided with a firm timeframe. This remains a key priority.

It should be noted the new test for cervical cancer to replace the current Test is contingent on a high quality register that will support the new Cervical Screening Test.

Without a register function, there will be no national system in place to provide screening histories to laboratories to inform clinical decision-making and no ‘safety net’ supporting women with positive test results to get the follow up they need.

As a consequence, the new MBS items for the new Cervical Screening Test will not be made available until the introduction of the register.

In the meantime, current arrangements for the existing test will continue.

State and Territory Health Departments have agreed with this course of action and advise that maintaining the integrity safety and quality of the program is paramount.

They also confirm that they will be able to support the existing Pap Test in their individual registers until the new test and national register are in place.

The Minister has asked the Secretary of the Department of Health to convene a meeting with relevant stakeholders including pathologists, the AMA, the RACGP and Telstra Health.

Media contact: Kay McNiece 0412 132 585

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