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Charity blames plummeting cervical screening attendance on lack of investment, innovation and shared responsibility

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 09:51

Released this morning[1], the latest statistics show attendance of cervical screening in England is the lowest for two decades. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust warns that more mothers, daughters, sisters and friends will be lost to cervical cancer if this does not change.

Coverage has fallen from 72.7% to 72% in the last year with over 1.2 million women not taking up their invitation. It is now the lowest it has been for 20 years[2] having fallen across every age group and almost every local authority in England.

  • Coverage in women aged 25-49 has dropped to below 70% for the first time and it now at 69.6% down from 73.7% in 2011
  • Coverage among 25-29 year olds has fallen by 1.2% to just 62.1%
  • The highest fall was among 60-64 year olds decreasing by 1.4% to 69.7%
  • Three age groups now have coverage below 70%: 25-29 year olds, 30-34 year olds and 60-64 year olds
  • London saw the biggest decline falling by 1% to 65.7%, compared to the highest national coverage of 75.4% in the East Midlands – still well below a minimum target of 80%
  • Almost a third of local authorities (45 of 150) achieved coverage of less than 70%
  • The charity is further concerned that only 71.6% of women received their cervical screening results within two weeks, far below the national KPI of 98.1% and a huge drop from 89.1% form the year before.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: “I am extremely disappointed to see these statistics, however sadly I am not surprised. The Jade Goody effect has long gone. We have spoken out time and time again about the need for investment and action to improve cervical screening attendance, however this is simply not happening. The Cancer Strategy for England emphasises prevention so it is incredibly frustrating to see lack of activity to increase participation in a programme that can prevent diagnoses of cervical cancer.”

Robert continues “We should be proud of our cervical screening programme, it saves thousands of lives every year and further developments such as the introduction of HPV primary screening are only going to make it better. However with increasing numbers not attending fewer will benefit from these improvements. As a charity we are working our hardest but we can’t do it alone. There are some examples of amazing work happening across the country to improve uptake and we need to see this amplified, locally and nationally or lives will be lost. We are leading busier, more mobile lives therefore these statistics must surely serve as a call to action to make the screening programme more accessible, again, something we have been saying for years.”

The charity is calling for the government to fund a national awareness campaign alongside increased investment to facilitate innovation and activity at a local level. A lack of funding is hindering the progress of changes which will increase accessibility for women including the ability to attend screening at GPs other than the one they are registered with, such as close to work, at more sexual health services and to be able to self sample.

In a report released in January 2017, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found almost half (44%) of local authorities and almost two thirds (60%) of CCGs had not undertaken any activities to increase screening attendance in the last two years with many stating it is not their responsibility.



For more information please contact [email protected] or call 020 3096 8100 (out of office hours 07772 290064)


Notes to editors

About Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s only dedicated charity offering support and information to women of all ages and their loved ones affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The national Helpline is on 0808 802 8000.



About cervical cancer

  • The majority (99.7%) of cervical cancers are caused by persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which causes changes to the cervical cells
  • Over 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 200,000 with cervical abnormalities each year in the UK
  • Every day 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 2 women lose their lives
  • Women aged 25-49 are invited for cervical screening every 3 years and from 50-64 every 5 years


About HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

  • Anyone who has ever been sexually active is at risk of contracting HPV
  • Around 13 high-risk types of HPV are responsible for causing cervical cancers, types 16 and 18 are the most prevalent, causing over 70 per cent of cervical cancers
  • Four out of five (80 per cent) women are infected with genital HPV at some point in their lives without ever knowing they have been infected because HPV is usually cleared (without treatment) by the body's immune system, with 80 per cent of cells healing within two years
  • A small percentage of women do not clear the infection and it can remain 'dormant' (inactive) or persistent, sometimes for many years. If your immune system doesn't clear the infection and/or the abnormal cells are not removed or monitored, the DNA of the HPV virus can join with the DNA of the epithelial cells, creating cancer cells. This is why cervical screening and HPV vaccination are important in helping to spot abnormalities and prevent cancer
  • Research has shown that changes in abnormalities do not usually escalate quickly and it can take between 5 to 20 years for a cancer to develop.

[1] https://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB30134

[2] Based on 5 year coverage (less than 5 years since last adequate test)