GPs and practice nurses play a key role in cervical cancer prevention activities in Ireland. In addition to providing smear tests, they are likely to be key sources of information and advice for patients on HPV infection, vaccination and testing. As public knowledge and awareness of the role of HPV in cervical cancer grows, it is likely that more and more people will seek advice from their GP or practice nurse on whether to have an HPV test, or how to prevent HPV infection. Thus primary care practitioners’ views and knowledge in this area – and their ability to impart this information to their patients – will have a major influence on cervical cancer prevention activities in Ireland over the coming years.
ATHENS (A Trial of HPV Education and Support), which is being conducted under the umbrella of the CERVIVA research consortium, aims to develop a practical, theory-based resource (intervention) to support GPs and practice nurses in their practice in relation to HPV infection, vaccination and testing. The first stage of the study involved two primary research studies to inform intervention development. Firstly, a qualitative interview study was conducted among GPs and practice nurses to identify key HPV-related clinical behaviours and explore influences on these behaviours. The findings of this study have been published in Implementation Science (see publications page). Secondly, a national postal survey of GPs and practice nurses was carried out to: (a) establish frequencies of the key behaviours in relation to HPV and; (b) identify significant predictors of behaviours. The findings from this phase are being written up for publication. This stage of the study was funded by the FRIENDS of the COOMBE.
The second stage will - once funding is secured - evaluate the efficacy of the resource(s) in improving knowledge and influencing clinical practice in a randomised controlled trial.