GPs slam cervical screening 'lottery'

DoH urged to cut 'unethical' screening age and to extend jabs to boys.

The DoH's decision not to lower the screening age for cervical cancer in England from 25 to 20 is unethical and will create a postcode lottery in care, the BMA has warned.

England is the only UK country to screen from 25 rather than 20.

Last month, a review by the independent Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening (ACCS) concluded that the screening age should remain at 25 as evidence showed that earlier screening could do more harm than good.

The DoH was pressured into commissioning the review after the high-profile case of Big Brother contestant Jade Goody.

But at the BMA annual representative meeting (ARM) in Liverpool last week, a motion calling for the screening age in England to be lowered to 20 was passed.

Presenting the motion, South Staffordshire GP Dr Mary McCarthy said it was unethical to make women wait until 25 years old for a smear test.

'Telling patients that in England they do not need a smear until they are 25 may give them the impression that it is not important,' Dr McCarthy said.

It is also a missed opportunity to check for STIs, she added.

London GP Dr Kate Bramall said: 'Some PCTs will refuse to process smears from women under 25. When the human cost is so high we need to make a stand for common sense.'

But Dr Surendra Kumar, a member of the ACCS and a GP in Widnes, Cheshire, said: 'Evidence shows that if women go for smears and are treated earlier, their chances of giving birth prematurely in later life increase.'

Meanwhile, a motion calling for HPV jabs for boys as well as girls was passed, and the DoH was criticised for selecting an HPV vaccine that does not offer protection against genital warts.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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