Thousands of eligible women in North Yorkshire miss smear tests
Tens of thousands of eligible North Yorkshire women are missed their last smear test, the latest figures show, amid warnings the coronavirus crisis has stoked anxiety over getting the health checks.
A survey by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust revealed the NHS is facing new challenges to attendance amid the pandemic, as some women avoid making appointments over fear of catching Covid-19.
Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for screening every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 receive invitations every five years.
NHS Digital data shows 79% of the 153,232 women in North Yorkshire eligible for a smear test by the end of 2019 had been screened – the point at which the latest data is available.
Although that was up from 77% over the same period in 2018, it meant 32,522 women in the area were missing out on the potentially life-saving programme shortly before the Covid-19 crisis struck.
Cervical screening services across England are slowly unpausing following disruption during lockdown, which saw invites suspended and appointments delayed.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said while low uptake was “already a concern” before Covid-19, the pandemic has created further barriers.
Robert Music, the trust’s chief executive, said: “Cervical screening isn’t always the easiest test and we must try to prevent the coronavirus making it even harder. We want every woman to have the information and support they need to feel able to make decisions about their health.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and director of primary care for the NHS in England, said plans are in place to start offering screening appointments as soon as possible, and measures will “soon be in place” to protect patients from the coronavirus.
She said: “While cervical cancer takes a long time to develop, we would strongly encourage any patients who are worried to seek help from their GP if they have symptoms, and if you are invited to attend a screening appointment, please do.”
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