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Changes to cervical screening and colposcopy

Cervical screening (smear tests) and colposcopy appointments across the UK are being postponed because of coronavirus (COVID-19). On this page, we explain what is happening where you live and what it might mean for you.

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Changes to cervical screening

The Cervical Screening Programmes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been officially paused. No invitations should be sent out and GP surgeries should not be offering appointments for cervical screening. 

Although England has not officially paused the Cervical Screening Programme, in some areas invites aren’t being sent out and GP surgeries are deciding to postpone appointments. 

Why are cervical screening appointments being postponed?

We know this situation isn’t ideal and you may be worried about what postponing your appointment will mean for you. At the moment, the risk of getting coronavirus and becoming ill, or passing the virus onto other people including health workers, may be greater than the risk of delaying cervical screening for a while. 

Routine cervical screenings are the appointments that have been officially paused. A routine cervical screening appointment is one that you have been invited to as a standard check up. For example, it may be your first cervical screening or it may be 3 or 5 years after your last clear result. 

Non-routine cervical screenings are appointments that may still being happening. You may have a non-routine cervical screening appointment after a result showing HPV or after colposcopy. If you are waiting for a follow up appointment, your doctor will look at your medical history and decide whether it is better for it to happen or be postponed. 

All of these decisions are being made with your individual situation and risk in mind, with the aim of keeping you and health workers as protected and well as possible.

Your GP surgery will usually contact you if your appointment is postponed. If you aren’t sure, or if you are worried about going, you can call them – they are still there to answer questions and support you.

When will cervical screening restart?

It is too soon to say when Cervical Screening Programmes across the UK will restart. We will update this page once we know more.

In Scotland and Wales, invites will be sent out again and appointments will be rearranged when cervical screening restarts.

In Northern Ireland, if your appointment was postponed you might need to contact your GP once cervical screening restarts.

In England, the Cervical Screening Programme hasn’t been officially paused, but we know in some areas invites aren’t being sent out and appointments are being postponed. If this has happened for you, contact your GP in a few months to see if they are offering appointments again. 

Changes to colposcopy

Colposcopy departments are still open and working hard to see everyone that needs an appointment. Coronavirus means that some appointments will happen, but others will be postponed. 

Why are colposcopy appointments being postponed?

Like cervical screening, all decisions being made are based on the risk to you – with both coronavirus and the impact of a postponed appointment in mind. 

Sometimes, the risk of becoming ill with, or passing on, coronavirus is greater than the risk of waiting a few more months for an appointment. If this is true for you, your doctor will let you know. You can call the colposcopy department and ask for more explanation, especially if getting answers will help with any anxiety or upset you may be feeling. 

Get support

Whether you have concerns, questions, or simply need to talk about how you feel right now, we are here for you. 

You can call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000. Our trained staff and volunteers can offer emotional support, talk through your situation, and help you figure out where to get answers.

Sometimes it can help to connect with others going through the same thing. Our Forum offers a safe space to do that – you can post your own thoughts or get support from existing conversations. 

Although they can’t give advice about your specific situation, our Ask the Expert service may be able to help with general medical questions or reassurance. 

Find out all the ways we can support you >

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Date last updated: 
24 Apr 2020
Date due for review: 
17 Apr 2021

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