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UK women’s health charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust releases new report calling for urgent audit as Cervical Screening Awareness Week gets underway

Written by Editorial Team, Donr

Published on Monday, 11th June 2018

‘Computer says no’ the charity’s new report warns that failings in the delivery and development of the cervical screening programmes have led to declining and unequal opportunities for women to access the potentially life-saving test.

Cervical Screening Awareness Week runs from today (the 11th of June) to 17th June and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has marked the start of it by launching a new report detailing improvements that need to be made to the current system for delivering and developing cervical screening programmes.

Despite five million women a year being invited for a screening, the report found that one in every eight women find it difficult or even impossible to book an appointment for a test – which is known to prevent 75% of cervical cancers. Furthermore, 7.4% of women were told no appointments were available at their GP practice when they last tried to book.

‘Every day in the UK, eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three lose their lives to the disease,’ said Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, ‘Yet cervical cancer is largely preventable due to the cervical screening programme and human papillomavirus vaccination.

‘Early detection is key to increasing survival rates so we are very concerned to hear that one in eight women struggle to make an appointment.’

Furthermore, according to the report, opportunities to access screening through sexual health services have been rapidly declining and are unequal across the UK. There has been a reduction of more than 50% in samples taken through sexual health services in England and a 42% reduction in Wales since 2013.

The report also suggests that certain groups of women are further disadvantaged as a result of the current delivery including transient populations, those with a physical disability and women who have experienced sexual violence.

The charity believes that a number of factors are contributing to declining attendance of cervical screenings: a lack of long-term planning and oversight; a complex commissioning environment; lack of incentive and resource for screening delivery in sexual health services; and IT systems – which were deemed ‘no longer fit for purpose’ in 2011 – preventing innovation.

The charity is calling for several improvements to be made to address the issues its report has found:

  • An audit to be carried out in each country with Government, NHS, commissioners, providers and public health specialists working together to identify problems;
  • Department of Health and Social Care to work with NHS England and Public Health England to immediately review the IT landscape in England;
  • Women having to wait a maximum of four weeks for an appointment in primary care, with more early morning, evening and weekend appointments made available in GP practices;
  • An integrated approach to commissioning and delivering screening;
  • Funding for large-scale pilots on self-sampling;
  • Innovation in delivery of programmes including more digital methods of communicating with women.

Paula Sherriff, MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health said: ‘Cervical screening is the best protection against cervical cancer and I support Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust in their calls to make it easier for women to access the test. 

‘There are many reasons which can make attending cervical screening difficult, including fear and embarrassment, so it should not be the case that women are also struggling to get appointments.

‘There is a clear need for action and I will be working with Jo’s to ensure it happens.’