More than a quarter of eligible patients failed to have their cervical smear last year, according to the latest official figures.
The NHS Digital report said that the percentage of eligible women in England (aged 25 to 64) who were screened for cervical cancer in 2015/16 was 72.7%.
This was down from 73.5% in 2014/15 and 75.7% in 2010/11, and the lowest rate for 19 years.
NHS Digital said this followed a ‘gradual fall’ in five-year coverage over the past 10 years (a measure of the percentage of eligible patients who had an adequate test within the last five years).
The report also said fewer women were invited for testing, with 4.21 million women invited last year, compared with 4.31 million the year before, representing a drop of 2.4%.
In all, 94.5% of test results submitted by GP practices and community clinics came back negative. But among those who required colposcopy, it said 9.4% did not attend their appointment.
The report said: ‘The long term trend shows a gradual fall in five-year coverage over the last ten years.
‘Apart from an increase in 2009, which has been associated with the media attention around the diagnosis and subsequent death of the high profile media personality, Jade Goody, coverage has either fallen or remained unchanged each year since 2005.’