Sadiq Khan has been urged to tackle the drop in cervical screening take-up among young women in London, with Southwark reporting a 1.5% reduction in 2017 compared to the previous year.
London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, Florence Eshalomi, described the figures as ‘a concerning move in the wrong direction’, and ‘further evidence that the NHS needs to be allocated more resources to effectively engage with women across our community’.
During last week’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week, Ms Eshalomi shared the most recent NHS statistics, showing that from March 2016 to March 2017, the number of eligible women aged 25-64 who were adequately screened in Southwark had fallen by 1.5%.
As previously reported by the News, this reflects a wider trend across London, where only two thirds of women are going to their appointments.
Across the country, screening uptake has fallen to its lowest rate in 20 years, with means more than four million women in the UK are missing out on the potentially life-saving procedure.
Ms Eshalomi said: “Cervical screenings save lives, and it is clear more must be done to encourage all eligible women to undertake them.
“It might be that the downward trend we are seeing in our local community, and across the capital, is due to our increasingly transient population, with less Londoners registering with a GP.
“With the level of take up in London lagging behind the national average, it’s vital the Mayor takes action to address this serious health inequality.
“That’s why I’m backing calls for Sadiq Khan to look into how we can promote awareness of cervical screening in the capital.
“The Government must also do their part by looking at how screenings can be made more accessible and ensuring that adequate resources are in place to enable the NHS to reach more women.”
A spokesperson for Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group told the News: “There are many reasons why people do not attend their appointments, including fear, embarrassment and finding the time to attend a clinic.
“Women often worry that the cervical screening test is for cancer itself, which can make them anxious and less likely to attend an appointment.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for women in Southwark to manage their health and well-being.
“Southwark has recently been working with the public health engagement team at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to improve cervical screening in the borough.
“Jo’s Public Health Engagement Coordinator has been training volunteers, presenting at the Nurses’ forum and conducting GP visits with a view to aid screening uptake through interventions and increasing awareness in the community.
Other new initiatives include text message reminders, more flexible appointment times, and new training programmes for clinical staff.”
Dr Esther Appleby, a GP leading screening projects for the south east London Cancer Alliance, said: “Every year there are more than 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer and nearly 900 hundreds deaths in the UK. This is a tragedy given that it is preventable.
“Although a cervical smear test can be a bit uncomfortable, it can detect changes that could develop into cancer if left.
“If you’re nervous about having it done you could speak to your GP or practice nurse or take someone with you.
“Please have it done if it’s due – it could save your life!”
The Mayor’s office was contacted for comment.