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Independents' Day

GPs 'should provide on-the-spot smear tests'

GP practices should offer ‘on-the-spot’ smear tests during routine appointments to reduce the number of women contracting cervical cancer and save the NHS money in treatment costs, a think-tank has said.

Demos argues in a report that if all women aged 25-65 were regularly screened – perhaps at GP practices by a female nurse or GP – then the incidence of cervical cancer would halve and so would costs to the NHS.

But GP leaders have said that this would be impossible without additional resources.

The Demos report argued that low screening rates currently are a result of difficulty in finding convenient appointment times, embarrassment, an underestimation of the risks, and poor awareness of what screening is for.

The think-tank’s public and welfare researcher Jo Salter said:  ‘Things like on-the-spot smearing tests during GP appointments might overcome the reluctance of many women feel about screening. This measure, combined with weekend or evening drop-in sessions at GP surgeries and health clinics, would help women struggling to find time for an appointment. Other countries have piloted alternative screening methods, such as self-testing and urine testing, which may also prove more appealing to women in the UK.’

But RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said it was ‘difficult to see how GPs could offer on the spot tests without additional resources’, and that many GPs simply do not have room in their premises to deliver such services. GPs are already ‘heaving under the pressure of existing workloads and struggling to cope with soaring numbers of patients’, she explained.

Dr Baker added: ‘The crisis in general practice is so severe that at least 27 million patients will have to wait more than a week to see a GP this year, and 84% of GPs are worried their workloads are so high that they might miss something serious in a patient.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • Well I used to do this! And would still be doing it if I hadn't retired in 2011! It always made sense to me.

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  • Needs to be slack in the system,ther definately is not now!Great thinktanking!

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  • The local public health team have written NOT to send smear tests OUTSIDE the NHS campaingn as they are not geared to accept this and will discard any sample sent outside the national cervical screen programme.
    Can PULSE confirm that this is the case and then inform the think tank or inform us if I have been mistaken. Since the Dailymail artice on a missed cervical cancer there has been a great increase in youg women asking for additional smear tests yearly or evn more frequently for their peace of mind!

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  • I used to do this too but don't any more as my consultations currently average 15 minutes in 10 minute slots without adding intimate examinations that were not on the patient's agenda.

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  • Totally absurd in the current climate of excessive workloads....last thing we'd do when already running 30 minutes late.
    Also, I second the point made at 9.42 - smears need to be done within the screening program.
    In my experience, women don't really like being pounced on to have a smear....they generally like to be well prepared for the procedure if possible, so a gentle reminder to book with the nurse should suffice
    A member of the "think tank" needs to sit in with a GP for just one session to understand why this will work better

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  • Come on GPs you can do everything everyday and of course you do not need a single penny extra for anything.

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