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Media Statement

5 June 2001

Law Changes to meet Inquiry's Recommendation, out for consultation

Law changes supporting the audit of the National Cervical Screening Programme, meeting a key recommendation of the Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry Report, are outlined in a discussion document released today by the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry is seeking input from New Zealand women about the proposed changes to legislation aimed at improving the effectiveness of the National Cervical Screening Programme, Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi said.

The Discussion Document, called Improving the NCSP, Law Changes to Support the Audit of the Programme, is being distributed this week to a number of women's organisations, health providers and professional organisations, and covers proposed changes to section 74A of the Health Act 1956.

Dr Poutasi says the changes will allow information about a woman's cervical screening history to be available for the purpose of auditing and evaluating the effectiveness of the National Cervical Screening Programme. Auditors will be required to keep personal information confidential and secure.

The changes to the legislation were called, "by far the most important change which is required to make the National Cervical Screening Programme fully effective", in the Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry report released in April.

"Although the Ministry is currently carrying out a three-part evaluation of the Programme, there have been difficulties accessing programme information for the purpose of auditing and evaluating the NCSP due to the measures in place under section 74A of the Health Act," Dr Poutasi said.

"It is important that the need to protect private information does not stop us from ensuring the programme is working effectively for New Zealand women. The ability to independently audit and research information, held as part of the National Cervical Screening Programme, is a key component in ensuring the ongoing quality of the Programme."

Dr Poutasi said the measures currently in place under Section 74A of the Health Act 1956 were out of step with the Health Information Privacy Code which covers information held by all other providers of health and disability services.

"New Zealand women continue to show a strong commitment to the NCSP. More than one million women are enrolled on the Programme. Since the programme began, there have been significant reductions in the rates of both disease and death from cervical cancer. From 1987 - 1996 the death rate for cervical cancer dropped by 43 per cent, while there has been a 22 percent drop in cervical cancer incidence, over the same period."

Maori women's data contained on the Programme Register is also protected by the Kaitiaki regulations. The Government intends to begin consulting separately about changes to these regulations in October.

"It is important that New Zealand women have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed changes. Here is a link to the Discussion Document or it may be obtained by telephoning 04 496 2277."

The period for receiving submissions will run for six weeks and closes on July 16.

For further information contact:

Peter Abernethy
Tel: 04 496 2008
Mob:025 477 036


Kallon Basham
Tel: 04 496 2385
Mob: 025 897 521

Website address:


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