Cervical screening in the UK

Are you eligible for NHS screening?

To be invited for cervical screening in the UK you need to be registered with a GP, who needs to have your current address on file. The NHS 'call and recall' system invites all women who are eligible for screening and registered with a GP. This system also keeps track of any follow-up investigations and, if all is well, recalls you for screening at the appropriate time for you – either three or five years depending on your age and where in the country you are registered (check the table below). It is important that you make sure to update your GP with any changes of circumstance or address.

The age of invitation for cervical screening currently varies according to where in the UK you live. Please check the table below for your region.

Eligibility for cervical screening in the UK:

Country Eligibility

Northern Ireland
& Wales 

Women aged 25– 49 invited every three years

Women aged 50– 64 invited every five years

Scotland Women aged 20–60 invited every three years

In 2012, the UK National Screening Committee recommended a uniform screening age of 25–64 across all UK countries. These changes are due to be implemented in Scotland from 6th June 2016, when women will be first invited at the age of 25 instead of 20 years.

Women in England, Northern Ireland and Wales may be invited for screening up to 6 months before the age of eligibility (ie., at 24 years and 6 months old).

Women who are eligible and who have not previously had a cervical screening may be offered one when they attend their GP or family planning clinic on another matter. For example, if your doctor notices that your cervical screening is overdue while they are taking a routine history as part of an examination for something else, they may offer you a cervical screen during your appointment. If you are eligible and have not received an invitation to attend cervical screening then you should contact your GP.

If you are experiencing any abnormal symptoms that you are worried may be related to cervical cancer, please consult your GP as soon as possible (even if you are not due for a cervical screening).

Those with compromised immune systems

Women who have a severely compromised immune system, such as those with HIV, should be screened annually as they are more likely to develop a persistent infection of HPV that could, over time, cause cervical abnormalities. This screening test is usually taken outside of the NHS National Screening Programme. Please check with your health care professional for further information on screening outside of the national programme.

Date last updated: 
26 Jan 2016
Date due for review: 
04 Sep 2017

Have a question? Need to talk?

Our helpline is currently closed, find out when it’s next open.

Or submit your question via our Ask the Expert online service