More women than ever before were invited for cervical screening in the 12 months to March 2020 but fewer attended – even before the start of lockdown.
In 2019-20, 4.63 million women aged 25 to 64 were invited for screening, an increase of 5.0% on the previous year, but the number who were tested decreased by 6.8% on the previous year, to 3.20 million.
The good news was that 72.2% of eligible women aged 25 to 64 were adequately screened, up by 0.3% on the previous year.
Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust commented that the small increase in adequate tests ‘could be a glimmer of hope. However, this year it must come with a dose of reality as these numbers represent the state of play before the pandemic. It is hard to say what the picture is now, but we have new challenges to contend with as a result of COVID-19 which include disruptions to services and public uncertainty about attending at the moment.
‘What these new data show is there is a clear need for systemic change in the cervical screening programme to see a bigger impact on uptake. HPV self-sampling is something we have long been calling for.’
Mr Music added: ‘There have long been widespread inequalities in access to screening. We are concerned, that not only does the pandemic mean they have not been addressed but instead widened.
‘Cervical screening remains the best protection against cervical cancer and it is essential that the UK government protects the cervical screening programme, throughout the pandemic and beyond.’