Changes to the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP): HPV Primary Testing

From 12 September 2023, the primary test for cervical screening will change to a human papillomavirus (HPV) test, with the option of self-testing. Further information about the change can be accessed via the National Screening Unit HPV primary screening webpage located here.

There are two sample types that Awanui labs will be accepting for HPV testing:

  1. Liquid Based Cytology (LBC) of a cervical sample using the existing SurePath vials. This sample type can be used for HPV testing and/or cervical cytology.

Important: Please ensure that device head/s used to collect the sample are placed in the large opening of the SurePath vial.  Any device placed in the small opening will interfere with processing of the sample. 

  • A self or clinician collected vaginal swab. Please note this sample type can only be used for HPV testing.

Please follow the NCSP guidelines as to which sample type is most appropriate for your patient.

Important: When labelling the SurePath vial please do not have the patient label overlapping the lid or base of the vial, do not create flags with the labels, and do not cover the notch at the bottom of the vial.

Consumable ordering

The new HPV swabs will be added to your local laboratory ordering forms (online, and pdf where available) on 28 August 2023 for delivery in the week leading up to the change on 12 September. You will find them located under the cytology section as HPV self-collect swab only (Copan 552C). This is to minimise the potential for the swabs to be used prior to the change.

Until the programme change to primary HPV testing takes effect on 12 September 2023, SurePath vials remain the only acceptable sample type for cervical cytology screening. The laboratory is unable to process HPV swabs prior to this date.

Ordering an HPV primary screening test via Awanui labs

eOrdering: our eOrdering form has been updated and the HPV Primary Screening tests will be available from both the main order page and the cytology tab from 12 September 2023 onwards. The information required to be collected is set by the NSCP. Please see annex A for some screenshots. 

Existing hardcopy laboratory form: Under additional tests, please request an HPV Primary Screening test and note whether the sample is a swab or a SurePath sample.

NCSP hardcopy form: the NCSP are updating the form and will make it available on their website.

Practice Management System: Please contact your PMS vendor with any queries you have around ordering a primary HPV screening test via this method.

Other Frequently asked Questions

Q: Will the laboratory be providing a self-collect service via the collection rooms?

A: No. Please do not refer patients to the laboratory collection rooms to self-collect their vaginal swabs.  Our collection rooms do not carry the swabs and do not have facilities available for this type of sample collect.

Q: Who can order an HPV Primary Screening swab?

A: Only a doctor or smear taker who is registered with the NCSP is eligible to request an HPV swab. This is regardless of whether the swab is self-collected or if a health professional performs the collect.

Q: How long will it take for HPV results to be returned?

A: The anticipated turnaround time is within 3 days from receipt at the testing laboratory. Results will be reported to the requestor/s and the NCSP register as per the completed request form.

Q: Does the laboratory have a patient information guide for self-collect HPV swab samples?

A: Yes, this is available at Awanui HPV Swab Kit Instructions

Q: Where can I access the updated clinical Practice Guidelines for Cervical Screening in Aotearoa New Zealand?

A: The updated guideline can be accessed via the National Screening unit website here.

Q: Once collected, what is the stability of a self-collect vaginal swab?

A:  Once a self-collect swab has been taken it is best practice for it to be sent to the laboratory as soon as possible.  If there is a delay in sending the swab to the laboratory, it can be stored either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Swabs MUST be tested within 4 weeks of collection. 

Q: Can samples (SurePath LBC, HPV Swab) for HPV testing be taken when a participant is menstruating? 

A:  While studies to date suggest that blood does not interfere with the HPV assay that Awanui is using, it is preferable that swabs are collected when the patient is NOT menstruating. 

Q:  Will lubricants and gels interfere with the HPV testing?

A:  The manufacturer of the HPV assay that Awanui is using has tested a number of lubricants and gels and found no evidence that they interfere with the HPV test.  However, please note there is some preliminary data that suggests that the Replens moisture Restore External Comfort Gel may cause an invalid HPV result. This is currently being investigated.  Please send any queries you may have around this change to

Annex A: eOrdering for Primary HPV testing (screenshots) – available from 12 September 2023 onwards

The HPV Primary Screening tests can be accessed from either the home screen or the cytology tab.

For HPV vaginal swab, additional boxes will only appear based on the initial details provided – the below screenshot has all sub-boxes expanded.

For SurePath samples, there is the option for HPV and/or Cytology test selection. Additional boxes will only appear based on the initial details provided – the below screenshot has all sub-boxes expanded. The information required to be collected is set by the NSCP.