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11% rise in women overdue for cervical screening

Labour blames rise on difficulty working women have in getting appointments at GP surgeries

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 24 April 2014

There has been a substantial rise in the number of women who are overdue for screening for cervical cancer, with 11% more now overdue, compared to three years ago, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows.

Around 3.7 million women are currently overdue for screening – 360,000 more than in 2009-10. Labour has blamed the increase on working women having difficulty obtaining an appointment at their GP surgery.

More than a million women in their thirties are overdue for their tests – 107,000 more than in 2009-10, an increase of 11 per cent. For women in their forties, the figure is 925,000 women – 120,000 more than in 2009-10, up 15 per cent, and for women in their 50s, 620,000 women are overdue – 84,000 more than in 2009-10, up 16 per cent.

Nine out of ten cervical screening tests are carried out in GP surgeries, and surveys show difficulties in booking appointments are a major cause of delayed or missed tests.

Shadow Minister for Care and Older People Liz Kendall said: “Someone is diagnosed with cervical cancer every three hours in the UK, and it kills three women every single day. Smear tests save thousands of lives every year, so this recent drop in uptake is extremely worrying.

“It’s vital to increase public awareness and make it easier for women to book their tests, including outside normal working hours, because it can be tough getting to your local surgery if you’re working, commuting or have to pick your children up after school. Yet a third of women who miss or delay their tests say it’s hard to book an appointment at their local surgery at a convenient time.

“David Cameron promised easier access to GP surgeries, but hundreds of them have shut their doors earlier in the day after Ministers cut the funding for Labour’s extended opening hours scheme. The Government should listen to what patients want so that women don’t have to choose between work and taking care of their health.”

Last week the government announced that it would be extending its Challenge Fund pilot in which practices are testing ways of GP boosting access for people who struggle to fit in appointments around family and work commitments. Some 1,147 GP practices, serving 7.5 million people in England, will be taking part in the one year pilot. The pilots were initially set to cover half a million patients.

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