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DH did not spin the findings of screening review

We strongly refute that the Department of Health 'spun' the findings of the cervical screening review of women aged 20 to 24 ('GPs reject cervical cancer blame', www.pulsetoday.co.uk/news).

Concerns about the management of some, but by no means all, symptomatic women were discussed at the review meeting and are clearly reflected in the minutes, available on the cancer pages of the DH website www.dh.gov.uk.

This concern was also reflected in recommendations to ministers which were accepted in full. All members of the committee, including Dr Kumar, quoted in your article, were given ample time to comment on the draft minutes and recommendations.

We have maintained all along that our policy on cervical screening should be in the best interests of young women. The Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening was unanimous in agreeing that the age range should not be lowered to 20 in England as there is no evidence screening works in this age group and screening would do more harm than good.

The recommendation on developing guidelines for GPs in managing young women with gynaecological symptoms was in no way a criticism of GPs, but a recognition that this is a very difficult area. Unusual vaginal bleeding, especially in younger women, can occur for a variety of reasons and not just because of the early signs of cervical cancer.

A multidisciplinary group, including GPs, a practice nurse, gynaecologists, a GUM physician and a family planning expert, will be developing the guidelines we hope to issue in December.

From Professor Mike Richards, national cancer director

Professor Henry Kitchener, chair of the Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening

Professor Steve Field, RCGP chair of council

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