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Changes to cervical screening and colposcopy

Updated 1st April 2021

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

Can’t see what you need? You might find answers on our FAQ page >

Changes to cervical screening

In March 2020, the Cervical Screening Programmes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were officially paused. This meant no invites were sent out and most appointments were postponed. Although England did not officially pause the Cervical Screening Programme, in some areas invites weren't being sent and appointments were postponed. 

Invitations are now beng sent out again, although it will probably take many months for everyone who needs an appointment to be seen. You can read more about this in our FAQs >

Why are cervical screening appointments being postponed?

We know you may be worried about what postponing your cervical screening appointment will mean for you. Cervical screening invitations stopped being sent for about 3 months from March 2020 because the risk of getting or passing on coronavirus was considered higher than the risk of postponing an appointment for a short time. Now cervical screening invitiations are being sent, but it may take longer than usual to see everyone because of that delay.

Routine cervical screenings are the appointments that are most likely to have been postponed. 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, in most places, are now happening first. 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?

Cervical screening has now restarted across the UK and invitations are being sent. If your appointment was postponed, you may get a reminder from your GP surgery or you may need to contact them yourself.

Read our FAQs >

Changes to colposcopy

Colposcopy departments are open and working hard to see everyone that needs an appointment. Most appointments are taking place as planned, but others may be postponed. 

Why are some colposcopy appointments being postponed?

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: 
01 Apr 2021
Date due for review: 
17 Apr 2021
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