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Barnsley Council is today announced as a winner of the national Cervical Screening Awards run by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. The winning Fear or Smear campaign was developed to increase the uptake of cervical screening in women aged 25-29 years across Barnsley following statistics that show nearly 29 per cent of this age group in Barnsley fail to attend screening when invited.
Currently in the UK 1 in 5 women do not attend cervical screening when invited. This number rises to around 1 in 3 for women aged 25-29 which are the first age group to be invited. Fear or Smear aimed to dispel the myths and false perceptions surrounding the screening test. It addressed barriers to screening for this age group which include fear of pain, embarrassment, misunderstanding that it's a test for cancer, and the woman not wanting the test to be carried out by her GP.
The campaign, commissioned by NHS Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group, involved creating a website with information, outdoor advertising, the distribution of posters and materials throughout the borough, to health care professionals and health care outlets. The campaign also worked with local retail outlets; staff wore branded t-shirts, postcards were put into shopping bags and posters displayed in shop windows.
Councillor Jim Andrews, Cabinet Spokesperson for Public Health, said: "We're delighted that Smear or Fear has been recognised in this way. Whilst in Barnsley screening uptake rates are higher than other areas in Yorkshire and the Humber, for women aged 25-29 years old, uptake rates are low and many GP practices do not reach the minimum threshold for cervical screening in this particular age group. We therefore aimed to directly bust the myths surrounding the test which may be preventing young women from attending.
"The campaign has proved to be a success and we are now working in partnership with Public Health England to rebrand the appointment letters sent out to women in Barnsley, ensuring the wording is accurate and the letter is visually appealing. We will also be signposting to the Fear of Smear website for further information. We hope the community continue to get on board with the campaign and ultimately more women take steps to prevent cervical cancer."
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "From the charity's own research we know that barriers such as fear of pain, embarrassment and lack of knowledge about what screening is for do exist amongst young women. Fear or Smear is an excellent example of what is needed to reverse the downward trend in screening uptake – a very targeted, local campaign. Until we address the barriers that stop women from attending screening, sadly we may see more women diagnosed with cervical cancer."
One of the judges, Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, managed by Public Health England, said: "The cervical screening programme is estimated to save 5,000 lives every year - yet 1 in 5 women across the UK do not attend for screening when invited and this number rises to 1 in 3 for women aged 25-29 years.
"Finding ways to reach and engage with these women so they are able to make an informed choice is a challenge, so it's great to see this campaign successfully doing just that."
The Cervical Screening Awards aim to recognise innovative local campaigns that have worked hard to increase awareness, drive uptake and ultimately save women from a disease that claims three lives every day. For information on how to apply for the 2015 awards visit www.jostrust.org.uk.
Notes to editors
About Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust: