Cervical cancer screening attendance drops to 19-year low

Attendance for cervical screening tests has dropped to a 19-year low, a charity has warned, as a report revealed large differences in efforts made by local authorities and CCGs to increase uptake.

Close to half (44%) of the local authorities have not undertaken any activities to increase cervical screening attendance in the last two years, or state that it is not their responsibility to do so, while 60% of CCGs report the same, a survey has shown.

The findings were revealed following freedom of information requests sent to every local authority and CCG – with 150 out of 152 and 204 out of 209 responding, respectively.

Charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, which conducted the research, warned that the inconsistent approach to promote screening was creating a postcode lottery of health across the country.

In 2015/16, three in four (73%) eligible women in England attended cervical screening when invited – a 19-year low  but this ranged locally from 56% in Kensington and Chelsea to 81% in South Gloucestershire.

If uptake remains the same, incidences of cervical cancer are estimated to increase by 16% among 60- to 64-year-olds and 85% among 70- to 74-year-olds.

Cervical cancer screening

But the survey also revealed pockets of good practice and innovation across the country, with 29% of local authorities found to be doing ‘comprehensive and targeted work’ to increase coverage.

Some teams were working directly with GP practices to increase coverage through poster campaigns, appointing practice cancer champions and offering training workshops.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: ‘Nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day in the UK and the number attending cervical screening is falling so it is extremely concerning to see so many local authority public health teams and CCGs not playing a part in increasing attendance.

‘The pressure and competing priorities faced by local authorities and CCGs should not be underestimated. However, there are many areas across England where teams are utilising the resources available to them and working in innovative ways to increase attendance and we urge those who aren’t to follow their lead.’

Photo: iStock

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