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National cervical cancer screening coverage continues to miss target

Screening uptake for the cervical programme in England continues to fall short of the Government’s target and is getting worse, new figures have revealed.

The latest statistics, released by NHS Digital last week, found that 70.8% of women aged 25-49 have been screened for cervical cancer over the past three and a half years, falling short of the 80% target.

Meanwhile, 76.6% of women aged 50 to 64 received an adequate screening test in the previous five and a half years.

The report also showed that only 16.9% of practices had met the 80% standard for coverage in the 35 to 49 age group as of September 2019, which compares to 24.3% of practices for coverage in the 50 to 64 age groups. 

This comes after recent research revealed that just over a third of older women participate in all cancer screening programmes, including breast, cervical and bowel.

The report further found:

  • Coverage for women aged 25-49 was the worst in central London at around 48%;
  • NHS Rushcliffe CCG had the best coverage, with 84% of women aged 25-49 screened;
  • The average practice had 1,229 eligible women aged 25-49, of whom 880 (71.6%) had an adequate screening in the previous three and a half years.

Pulse reported in November that less than half of patients in England received their cervical cancer screening results within the expected two-week timeframe

Last year, Public Health England launched a major campaign in a bid to tackle the 20-year low in cervical screening uptake.

At the same time, Capita was stripped of its contract to run the cervical cancer administration, with NHS England announcing the service would be brought back ‘in house’ from June due to problems including waiting two months to tell NHS England they had failed to deliver 47,000 screening letters.


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