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Practices urged to act now for access to new cervical screening system

by Julie Griffiths
25 September 2023

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GP practices must take action by 30 September for the transition to a new IT system that supports the call and recall function for the NHS cervical screening programme in England.

The new Cervical Screening Management System (CSMS) will replace the current system – Open Exeter, which sits on the National Health Application and Infrastructure Services (NHAIS) – by the end of 2023/2024.

In a letter to practices sent last week, NHS England (NHSE) has said the CSMS will’ ‘improve the accuracy of patient information and data used by the NHS Cervical Screening Programme’ and be ‘much simpler to navigate for users’ than the current system.

The changeover will alter the way call and recall lists are received by surgeries and also alter how practices need to action it to ensure participants are called efficiently and safely. Keeping on top of new processes will be vital for practices in meeting cervical screening targets under QOF.

The letter from NHSE says it is ‘stepping up preparations’ for the switch and explains the essential actions practices must take by the end of this month, particularly around equipment and digital requirements.

Staff working in a cervical screening service will need to ensure that they have an NHS Smartcard in place and that the correct permissions have been added before the system goes live. 

That is because the CSMS will change the way practices access the screening system. Rather than via an Open Exeter username and password, it will be through a smartcard with appropriate access permissions.

Those who do not currently have an NHS smartcard will need to apply for one at the Apply for Care ID service.

The letter also said practices should liaise with their IT team and local Registration Authority to ensure all devices and Smartcards are prepared for the new system (see box).

In general practice, the registration authority is often provided by a Commissioning Support Unit. A list of registration authorities can be viewed here.  

NHS England said training on how to use the new CSMS system will be issued shortly.

The current system will continue to support the cervical screening programme until CSMS goes live. After that, it will no longer be accessible, NHS England has warned.

Practices that do not currently use the Open Exeter cervical screening call/recall system need take no action at this time unless they want to become a CSMS user.

Preparing for the new cervical screening management system

Practices must check the following has been completed by 30 September for their devices to be ready for the switchover.

They need to check their local IT teams have:

  • Ensured practice devices can access the CSMS URL
  • Ensured users have devices that support NHS Smartcard authentication by making sure each device has an up-to-date version of NHS Identity Agent and Credential Management installed along with a supported browser
  • Checked all devices have NHS Smartcard readers
  • Created a desktop shortcut for users to easily access the system.

New role-based access control (RBAC) workgroup codes have been introduced for primary care, which enable registration authorities to complete the set-up of smartcards for GP practices.

Practices must check their local registration authority has:

  • ensured that users have appropriate RBAC codes and are assigned to a specific CSMS workgroup on their Smartcard. (Only those staff requiring access to the new system will have access permissions).
  • processed new NHS Smartcard requests for cervical screening staff who do not currently have one
  • ensured cervical screening users have up-to-date email addresses registered against their ID stored in the Care Identity Service.