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Millions of Women Missing Smear Test Appointments

Figures have shown that around three million women living within England have not attended an appointment for a smear test for at least three and a half years.

GP’s are now attempting to raise these figures by encouraging women to take up smear test invites, as it is believed up to half of women under the age of 50 have not had the cervical screening test within the recommended timeframe. 

Public Health England have stated that they are “concerned” by the fall in figures, as smear tests are at the lowest they have been for two decades.

Approximately 220,000 British women are diagnosed each year with cervical abnormalities and during 2016, 854 women lost their lives to cervical cancer, which is why it is so important for all women to attend their smear test appointments.

The current NHS target for women aged 25-49 to undergo the test every three years is 80%, however, figures have shown that only 72% of women aged 25-64 have attended an appointment in the recommended timescales.

Charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust carried out a survey on 2,017 women to identify the main reasons for not attending appointments. 35% of women said they were embarrassed of their body shape and so did not attend their test, 34% were embarrassed because of the shape of their vulva and 38% raised concerns over odour. A concerning 15% of women said they would miss their smear test appointment for a waxing appointment or gym class.

President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, Dr Asha Kasliwal, said “Cervical screening is not a mandated requirement for local authority commissioning. Local authorities under severe budgetary pressure are not including the essential aspect of women’s health care in their service specifications.”

She added, “GP’s have a very positive role to paly in increasing uptake by offering opportunistic screening, but primary care is not able to effectively meet the increased demand. Screening rates are now at their lowest in two decades and the minimum 80% national target is far from being achieved.”

Public Health England’s Director of Screening, Professor Anne Mackie, said “PHE, alongside charities including Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the NHS and local authorities, are concerned about the fall in women taking the test. Currently, 72% of women have cervical screening and we’re working together to ensure that every woman knows what the test is about and to make it easy to attend screening appointments.”



BBC News. ‘Cervical Screening: Millions Missing Smear Tests.’ BBC News Online.  (23 October 2018).

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