Cervical Cancer Awareness Week: Number of women screened in Southwark still well below target

Katherine Johnston (19 June, 2020)

London has failed to hit the 80 per cent target at any point since in 2016

20925Cervical smear screening uptake is at a 21 year low across England

New NHS data shows the number of women attending cervical smear tests in Southwark is still falling short of the nationwide 80 per cent target.

Only 62.5 per cent of eligible women aged 25-29 were screened for cervical cancer between September and December 2019.

Women aged 50-64 were more likely to be tested after being written to by their GP – with 73.4 per cent taking up the offer.

London has failed to hit the 80 per cent target at any point since in 2016.

Attendance is now likely to have also been affected by the COVID-19 crisis with many people avoiding the NHS altogether.

In a survey conducted by charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, around 13 per cent of people said they felt it was better to put their test on hold.

Smear test attendance is now at its lowest levels in the last 21 years in England.  Across the UK, one in four women do not attend.

Among other recommendations, the charity has lobbied the NHS to make appointments more flexible – including evenings and weekends – and work with sexual health providers to reach more people.

The charity is also campaigning for workplaces to allow female employees the time off to get screened.

London Assembly member for Southwark and Lambeth, Florence Eshalomi (also Labour MP for Vauxhall) is backing its recommendations.

“Cervical screenings continue to save lives, so it is very concerning to see that testing rates are still falling below the national target, and in many cases actually getting worse.

“On top of this, we must also remain alert to how the COVID-19 outbreak may exacerbate this already worrying situation.

“This is why it is vital that we urgently see city-wide leadership and a renewed focus on this issue.

“Right now, the government can also play their part by looking at how screening can be made more accessible and ensuring that the funding and resources are in place to more effectively raise awareness and enable the NHS to reach more women.”

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