Election 2023: Labour promises to make cervical screening free for all New Zealanders if re-elected

The Labour Party is promising to make cervical screening services free to all women and people with a cervix aged 25-69 years old if it is re-elected. It says this would deliver improved cancer care for over 1.4 million Kiwis.

"Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and regular screening saves lives, so it is critical cost isn't a barrier to accessing early detection," Labour's women's health spokesperson Willow-Jean Prime said in a statement on Tuesday.

Prime stated the current screening programme, which is delivered by primary care, has "never been fully funded" and that most people are paying up to $100 in co-payments.

"Making cervical cancer screening free for everyone eligible brings it into line with other forms of cancer screening, like breast cancer," she said.

Research in 2019 identified that approximately 80 percent of people who develop cervical cancer in New Zealand have either never been screened or have been inadequately screened.

The research found roughly 180 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer per year, and about 60 of them die from it.

Labour's promise of free screening for all those eligible builds on the work the Government is rolling out on Tuesday to extend free screening to people aged 30 and over who have never had a cervical screen or who have not had a screen in the last five years, people requiring follow up, Māori and Pacific people, and Community Service Card holders.

"Providing free cervical screening to all will cost $20 million per year and will be funded from within health baselines," Prime said.

"We're focused on making access to healthcare and medicines free so no one misses out."

The Report of the Parliamentary Review Committee Regarding the National Cervical Cancer Screening Programme, published in 2022, recommended that all people should receive free cervical cancer screening.

"This month is Cervical Screening Awareness Month, and with free HPV vaccinations and increasing access to our new HPV self-test, ultimately we can achieve enough coverage to make cervical cancer a thing of the past," Prime said.