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GP practices urged to provide more equipment for disabled cervical cancer screenings

Practices should provide more equipment to ensure greater uptake of cervical cancer screening among disabled patients, a study has recommended. 

A report by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust looked at the barriers that can hinder disabled women’s uptake of smear tests. It found that the majority (88%) of the 335 surveyed said it was harder for women with physical disabilities to attend or access cervical screening.

In addition, 63% felt unable to attend cervical screening at all as a result of their disability, while a fifth needed a hoist to help them onto the examination bed and into a correct position - but just 1% reported this equipment was available at their GP surgery. 

One patient testimony said: ‘I have been told by other members of staff at another GP practice (as well as my current) that I can’t have one as they have no way of safely getting me onto the examination table and both surgeries aren’t covered by insurance to do it in patients home where the right equipment is.’

The report recommended that home visists be considered if patients are unable to attend the practice. 

It said: 'Where they are not possible, arrangements for screening at a more accessible venue must be arranged to ensure women living with debilitating conditions are not put at increased risk of cervical cancer.'

It also recommended:

  • National support to address inequity in access;
  • GP practices review their policies and practice to ensure pathways or adjustments are in place so every woman can access cervical screening;
  • CQC and health inspectorates to regulate access in general practice; 
  • Research on the most effective way of offering cervical screening to women with a physical disability, including feasibility of HPV self-sampling;
  • Sample taker training and refresher training to include potential needs and adjustments for women with a physical disability.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: ‘Every eligible woman should be able to access cervical screening should they wish to. It can prevent the development of cervical cancer and saves around 5,000 lives in the UK every year.

‘Going for a test can be difficult for many reasons, and with cervical screening uptake in decline we should be working to overcome barriers not introducing them.'

Earlier this summer, the results of a Government-funded trial on HPV trial showed that some women may be able to go as long as ten years between cervical screening appointments.

It follows the news that delays to cervical cancer screening results are expected to last until the end of the year

Readers' comments (6)

  • Adequate funding would be nice.

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  • Well said. We have an obesity chair at the surgery for CQC that I have only ever seen children on it.

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  • I wouldn't worry, when GP dies every female patient wont get a screen either, will be fully equitable then. otherwise can't afford the equipment needed. sorry. suggest a referral to secondary care, which is what we normally do when we don't have the equipment and would be more cost effective rather than every practice buying the same equipment to be rarely used plus all the maintenance costs etc. plus having done my compulsory training in moving and handling and I am not trained to use a hoist etc I should not be expected to lift patients as this would be illegal. goes both ways with CQC. You can't make all these rules and then expect me to break them whenever you feel like it.

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  • plus doing smears at home would be a nightmare, bad enough being asked to pelvic examinations on home visits - its very difficult, there is no adequate lighting and its not a clean or safe environment. Please don't suggest this as an option because it really isn't.

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  • What everyone else said. Surely this is just a referral?

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  • The necessary equipment is available at the Hospital, which provides those special services that are not economically provided at small GP surgeries, and cannot be 'safely' done at home without the extra staff. (does anyone know any DN who does home visit smears?)

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