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OTC antibiotic plan 'a threat to life-saving treatments'

The number of women screened for cervical cancer fell by 70,000 ­ 2 per cent ­ last year, latest Government figures show, raising fears of a drop-off in uptake.

As news of the fall emerged, a former Government adviser has warned GPs to be 'vigilant' in ensuring eligible women are invited for screening.

The number of women who had been screened at least once in the past five years also fell by 2 per cent.

Dr Ann McPherson, former member of the Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening and a GP in Oxford, said: 'There's all sorts of issues surrounding uptake but one problem is the accuracy of GP lists. The screening programme has been hugely successful but we still need to be vigilant.'

GPC negotiators said the steady fall in uptake among women under 50 since 1997 highlighted the need for continuing patient education.

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP in Leeds and GPC negotiator, said in some areas it was a 'huge task' to keep registers up to date, especially while waiting for records to be forwarded from the patient's last GP.

'Firstly we need to re-emphasis the importance of cervical screening,' he said. 'But as electronic records become more widespread it should become easier.'

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