Third of Yorkshire women called up for smear tests missed their appointments last year, NHS data shows
Nearly a third of people in Yorkshire who were called up for smear tests last year missed their appointments, leading to concerns that screenings have fallen due to the pandemic.
NHS Digital data from the 13 upper-tier councils in Yorkshire shows that, of the 1.35m patients eligible for cervical screenings in 2020, only 974,940 (72 per cent) took up the invitation.
One charity has said “we may sadly see a rise” in cancer cases following the disruption caused to testing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cervical screenings, or smear tests, involve swaps being taken from a patient’s cervix for analysis to see if there are any cell abnormalities or signs of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes more than 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases. They are available every three to five years to all women and people with cervixes over 25.
Some 379,164 patients called for their smear last year did not take up their invites, with the number of patients who attended their appointments falling slightly in every council area last year from the year before.
Bradford saw the lowest uptake for smear tests last year, with more than 48,000 patients (33.5 per cent) who have not been adequately screened.
York also had low uptake figures, with 17,440 people out of an eligible 54,994 (32 per cent) not getting screened last year.
Jo’s Cancer Trust says attendance at cervical screenings has generally been falling over the last two decades, and that Covid has created new challenges.
“Our research shows this was more pronounced among groups such as women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities,” chief executive Samantha Dixon said.
“While cervical cancer is rare and usually develops slowly, a rise in diagnoses of higher grade cell changes and cervical cancers is something we may sadly see.”
The biggest drop in coverage during the pandemic has been among younger women aged 25 to 49, who were already much less likely to take up their screening offers.
Jo’s Trust says invitations in some areas last year were not sent and appointments postponed. They have since resumed.
“We would encourage those who are now overdue as a result of the pandemic or otherwise to book in,” said Samantha Dixon.
“It is essential we continue to shout about the importance of the test, and make sure everyone who needs support knows where to find it.”
Public Health England, which administers the screening programme, declined to comment.
You can book a cervical screening if you are due one by phoning your GP.
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