Cervical screenings down as NHS urges women to come forward

Three in ten women invited by the NHS to have cervical screening do not take up the offer – and the numbers attending have dropped slightly, according to new data.

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme, England 2022-2023 annual report, published by NHS England, shows 68.7% of 25-64-year-olds had attended screening within the recommended time, compared to 69.9% the previous year.

The data is a setback to NHS England plans to eliminate cervical cancer as a problem over the next two decades.

Women are now being urged to accept NHS cervical screening invites after the findings reveal the proportion was higher for 50-64-year-olds at 74.4%, compared to 65.8% for 25-49-year-olds.

In 2022-23, a total of 4.62 million individuals aged 25 to 64 in England were invited to book an appointment and 3.43 million attended screening during the year.

Steve Russell, chief delivery officer and national director for vaccinations and screening for NHS England, said: “We know that it’s possible for the NHS to eliminate cervical cancer within the next two decades, but it relies on millions of people continuing to come forward for screening and vaccinations every year.

“The NHS is doing everything we can to achieve our ambition by making it as easy as possible to make appointments, with the latest figures showing the NHS arranged cervical screening for over 3.4 million women last year.”

Nicola Smith, senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “The cervical screening programme saves thousands of lives every year in the UK by preventing cancer and helping to stop the disease in its tracks. We encourage women and people with a cervix, such as trans men and non-binary people assigned female at birth, to take part.

“Barriers to participation can often lead to inequalities in diagnosis and treatment, so we support targeted action to increase awareness and widen access to this potentially life-saving programme.

“Some people can find cervical screening uncomfortable but there are ways to make your appointment work better for you. When booking, ask for a longer time slot, so you can speak through any concerns you may have. And remember, you are in control of your appointment.”

England is among the first countries in the world to set the elimination ambition for cervical cancer within the next two decades.

Last week the NHS pledged to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040 by making it as easy as possible for people to get the HPV vaccination and increasing cervical screening uptake.

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