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The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP) is to reduce the number of people who develop invasive cervical cancer (incidence) and the number of people who die from it (mortality).

Sample taker training

NCL Training Hub coordinates a programme of training, funded by Cancer Alliances, aimed at increasing the number of clinicians in NCL trained and certified to take cervical samples.

NB The training period for trainee sample takers is a maximum of 9 months from enrolment through to completion.

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This NCL training programme is offered to the following professional groups:

  • Nurses

  • Nursing Associates

  • Physician Associates

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Steps to complete the NCL sample taker training programme.

Please view below the steps you will need to follow to train as a sample taker in North Central London, following the Education pathway - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).


STEP 1
Have an assigned cervical screening mentor
The cervical screening mentor supports the trainee through their practical sample taker training and confirms their achievement for progression to the final evaluation and clinical assessment. Mentors must be:

  • a registered nurse, a registered midwife, a registered physician associate, or a GMC registered medical doctor

  • practising sample takers with at least 12 months continuous experience, having taken at least 50 cervical samples following completion of their own initial training.

STEP 2
Attend an accredited foundation training course
You can register your expression of interest in the training programme for sample takers coordinated by the NCL Training Hub below.

To register for training, trainees will need to ensure the Training Hub receives a copy of their named mentor's certificate (either certificate from an update sample taker training attended in the past 3 years, or, if the mentor has been practicing for less than 3 years, a certificate confirming that they were signed off as a sample taker via an external assessment).

Please note, you will need to complete your training pathway within 9 months of doing the foundation training so make sure you plan ahead.

STEP 3

  • Visit a colposcopy clinic - this can be organised by the NCL Training Hub. Email nclicb.nclcpd@nhs.net for help.

  • Visit a cervical screening laboratory (where logistics permit) or attend a virtual tour and laboratory presentation (a laboratory presentation must be included in the theoretical course) - this can be organised by the NCL Training Hub - visit nclicb.nclcpd@nhs.net for help.

STEP 4

Observe and take samples whilst being supervised

  • Observe a mentor taking at least 2 cervical samples.

  • Take min. 5 cervical samples directly supervised by the mentor.

STEP 5

Complete an interim assessment
This must be conducted by the mentor and needs to take place before you can start your unsupervised practice.

STEP 6

Take unsupervised trainee samples

Take between 20 and 25 (25 being the max number) acceptable cervical samples without direct supervision up to the point of final assessment.

NB Whilst taking unsupervised samples, trainees must have easy access to an experienced sample taker who is on site at the time they are taking cervical samples during unsupervised practice. This applies to all trainees whether they work on one site or within a federation. Read more here.

STEP 7

Undergo a final clinical assessment.
Clinical assessment must include a minimum of 3 samples observed by an external assessor within 9 months from attending the foundation training.

NCL Training Hub holds a register of available cervical screening assessors that can be asked to conduct a trainee's final clinical assessment.

Contact nclicb.nclcpd@nhs.net to be matched with an assessor.

STEP 8
Submit your completed training record to CSL
- this must be verified by the trainee, mentor, assessor and training provider.

On demonstration of competence, verified by an external assessor, sample takers must then submit their training workbook to the training provider and not perform further smears until a certificate of completion is issued. 

STEP 9

Upload your certificate to Londcstd platform
See a guide on Registering on the Loncstd database
Once that's done, you will be generated a new sample taker code. 

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Useful links:

Responsibilities of sample takers

The sample taker is responsible for making sure they:

  • receive appropriate initial training to take cervical screening samples - this includes completing a recognised theoretical course followed by a period of supervised training.

  • understand how the screening programme operates and their responsibilities within it.

  • keep themselves updated on programme developments and policy to avoid taking inappropriate tests (we recommend this is best carried out through 3-yearly updates).

  • audit their practice routinely and proactively seek advice should they identify any issues.

CSL update for sample takers

Please view the latest information bulletin from CSL including:

https://www.ncltraininghub.org/assets/nursing/cervical_sample_t/sample-taker-update-no.-16-september-2023.pdf

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Upcoming training dates for sample takers:

Venue: Hornsey Central Neighbourhood Health Centre - 151 Park Road, N8 8JD

Time: 09:00 - 16:30

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External assessors

ABOUT EXTERNAL ASSESSORS

The cervical screening assessor provides an element of externality which is crucial to quality assuring the training and verifying the assessment process. The assessor is responsible for conducting the trainee’s final clinical assessment. The assessor is external to the trainee’s place of work. A mentor can take on the role of assessor for a trainee outside their own practice.

Same as mentors, assessors must be practising sample takers with at least 12 months continuous experience, having taken at least 50 cervical samples following completion of their own initial training. Assessors must have effective communication skills and ideally hold a relevant mentoring and, or teaching qualification.

BECOMING AN ASSESSOR IN NCL

In order to act as an external assessor for trainee sample takers in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, and Islington, eligible clinicians must be formally registered in the NCL database of external assessors managed and quality assured by the NCL Training Hub.

To formally register as an NCL external assessor for sample takers, you must be an active sample taker, having performed at least 50 smear tests in the past 12 months.

Please see below the pathway to becoming an external assessors:

Step

Guidance

  1. Become a qualified cervical screening sample taker.

a) You must be a registered health professional (i.e. NMC).

b) You must have completed a recognised Cervical Screening Training, which would have led to obtaining a sample taker certificate.

c) You must be registered with the Londoncstd platform and have a sample taker code.

 

  1. Remain an active cervical screening sample taker.

a) You must complete Cervical Screening and HPV updates (every 3 years) and upload onto the Londoncstd platform (if you struggle with uploading to the platform, please email csl.cstd@nhs.net – they will be able to upload on your behalf. Training updates can be completed at: http://www.e-lfh.org.uk/

b) You must have performed smear tests in the past 12 months. Otherwise, your Londoncstd register, and pin code become inactive (to reactivate the above you must complete step 2.a and 2.c).

c) You must complete 2 sample-taking sessions peer reviewed to confirm competency – it can be at a practice of your choice, or we might be able to support you with organising the sessions for you. Please let us know once this has been completed, we will obtain the data on your results directly from Londoncstd.

d) You must undertake continuous self-evaluation.

e) You must review and reflect on any rejected samples, including those inadequate for cytology, and abnormal test results.

 

  1. Become a qualified external assessor.

a) Send an expression of interest to nclicb.nclcpd@nhs.net

b) Attend training organised to become an external assessor.

c) Email us your certificate from the training.

d) You must have performed at least 50 smear tests in the past 12 months to be able to act as an external assessor.

e) Attend bi-annual Forum for Cervical Smear Mentors & Assessors – we have organised this with the University of Hertfordshire, you will receive the invites directly.

 

Contact nclicb.nclcpd@nhs.net to express interest in becoming an assessor.

Remuneration for external assessments

As an NCL external assessor for sample takers, you can claim £150 for conducting a clinical assessment (clinical assessments average 4h).

NB only assessments from clinicians registered with the NCL external assessor database will be honoured and remunerated.

Please download a template invoice to submit in order to claim funding.

Download the invoice template

Resources/useful information


The sample taking providers or employer organisations are responsible for making sure that:

  • all sample takers are adequately trained as described in national sample taker training guidance

  • protocols and procedures consistent with national screening guidance are in place for the:

    • completion of the screening test and its associated documentation

    • safe transport of screening specimens to the cytology laboratory