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Over half of cervical cancer screening letters were delayed last year

More than half of patients in England experienced delays in receiving their cervical cancer screening results in 2018/19.

Data released today by Public Health England (PHE) showed that only 48.4% of letters were received within the expected two-week timeframe, and a third of women waited over three weeks for results.

PHE claims delays over the implementation of HPV screening has impacted the cytology workforce and created a ‘lack of capacity in laboratories’ since 2016/17.

Delays in screening results have been mounting steadily year-on-year since 2011/12 when 95% of patients received their results in time.

National policy states that all women should receive their cervical screening test result within 14 days of the sample being taken, but no region in England came close to the 98% KPI threshold in 2018/19.

There were also large variations across the country, with the North West reporting the highest percentage of letters received within two weeks, at 71.4%. Meanwhile, figures for Yorkshire and the Humber stood at a poor 21.4%.

However, there was a 0.5% uplift in the number of eligible women being screened last year, in part due to more younger women aged 25 to 49 attending. The number of women aged 25-64 adequately screened in 2018/19 was 71.9%. 

A spokesperson for the NHS said: ‘Hundreds of thousands more women were screened for cervical cancer over the last year and the NHS will put further plans in place to increase uptake including through more convenient appointments, following Professor Sir Mike Richards’ independent review into screening.

‘A new and more accurate way of testing for cervical screening will be in place by the end of the year as part of the NHS long term plan’s efforts to catch more cancers earlier and ultimately save more lives.’

In August, Pulse reported that GP practices in the East of England had been informed of patients facing delays in receiving their cervical cancer screening results. The delays were expected to continue until the HPV primary screening programme is fully implemented by December 2019.

In March, 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.

It followed a series of problems with Capita including waiting two months to tell NHS England they had failed to deliver 47,000 screening letters.



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