Almost half of local authorities and 60% of CCGs have not undertaken any work to increase attendance for cervical screenings, according to a new report from Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.
The charity contacted every CCG and local authority in England to examine the work being done to improve attendance, after data last year found that rates were at a 19-year low. Of the 150 local authorities (out of 152 in total) that responded to the Freedom of Information request, 44% reported not taking specific steps to encourage uptake in the past two years. Similarly, 60% of the 204 CCGs that responded had not tried to improve attendance rates.
‘Nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day in the UK and the number attending cervical screening is falling so it is extremely concerning to see so many local authority public health teams and CCGs not playing a part in increasing attendance,’ said Robert Music, chief executive of the charity.
Mr Music said they were particularly concerned about women aged 25 to 29 as cervical cancer is the most common cancer in under 35s. However, one in three women in this age group do not take up their invitation when invited.
According to the charity, 51% of 25 to 29 year olds have not attended or delayed cervical screening, while 24% delayed it for over a year and 9% have never been screened. Reasons for this included fear it might be painful, embarrassment, or simply not having the time.
‘The pressure and competing priorities faced by local authorities and CCGs should not be underestimated,’ added Mr Music. ‘However there are many areas across England where teams are utilising the resources available to them and working in innovative ways to increase attendance and we urge those who aren’t to follow their lead. Cervical screening offers the best protection against cervical cancer, saving lives and saving the NHS money.’