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Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Wins Cervical Screening Award for Campaign Aimed at Women with Learning Disabilities

Mon, 23/03/2015 - 08:59

The Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust is today announced as a winner of the national Cervical Screening Awards run by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. The Cervical Screening Training team in the North East in partnership with colleagues in sexual health and a community arts organisation, devised the 'Josephine Visits the New Croft Centre' sexual health campaign to improve uptake of cervical screening amongst women with learning disabilities (LD).

Research has shown that only 19 per cent of women with learning disabilities have cervical smears compared to 77 per cent in the general population[1]. Furthermore women with learning disabilities die 20 years sooner than women in the general population, with 20 per cent of these premature deaths resulting from cancer[2]. The campaign therefore aimed to not only increase access to cervical screening but also empower women with learning disabilities to explore women's health, well-being, sex and relationships in collaboration with other organisations.

The team worked alongside community arts organisation 'Them Wifies', which had previously developed Josephine – an interactive learning resource which is a life size anatomically correct cloth woman called Josephine. Working with women with a learning disability already signed up to a 10 week course with 'Them Wifies', the screening team were able to meet the women and as part of the course include a session on cervical screening. Overall the project involved following Josephine's experience of attending cervical screening; from initial invitation, to a live screening consultation and receiving her results. The women with learning disabilities were present throughout the consultation acting as Josephine's 'friends'.  

Jill Fozzard, Cervical Screening Training Facilitator for the North East region, said: "Following a health needs assessment in Newcastle a gap was identified in the provision of sexual health for people with learning disabilities. We were approached by 'Them Wifies' to work collaboratively to raise awareness around cervical screening and sexual health for women with learning disabilities, using the existing resource that is Josephine.

"Josephine is accompanied by a series of workshops and experiences which she records in her diary and shares with other women with learning disabilities. As it is Josephine in the spotlight the emphasis is on her rather than on individual participants making the women feel more comfortable and able to share things relating to sexual health. What became apparent was the unique relationship and emotional attachment which developed between the women and Josephine – one of care and concern for Josephine's wellbeing. 

"We're delighted to have been recognised for our work in targeting this often overlooked group of women. The campaign successfully educated the women on cervical screening and wider sexual health. We hope to continue to run this education programme with this group of women and continue to work alongside 'Them Wifies' which proved so successful."

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "It's essential that the cervical screening programme is accessible to all groups of women regardless of their background. Anyone who has been sexually active is at risk of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which can lead to cervical cancer. The Josephine campaign is an excellent example of a local screening team targeting a hard to reach group of women who are more likely to lack the knowledge and ability to attend cervical screening.

"We hope to share this campaign as best practice and encourage other organisations either NHS, not-for-profit or private, to launch targeted campaigns locally."

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 among women from minority groups, such as those with learning disabilities, the number is far greater.

"Finding ways to reach and engage these women so they are able to make an informed choice is a challenge, so it's always good to see innovative approaches to overcome some of the barriers as this campaign has done."

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

  • The Cervical Screening Awards judging panel include: Julietta Patnick, Director, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes; Tim Elliott  Senior Policy Advisor: Cancer NHS Clinical Services Team; Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

About Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust:

  • Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust (www.jostrust.org.uk) is the UK’s only dedicated charity offering support and information to women of all ages affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The National Helpline is on 0808 802 8000
  • Around 3 women in the UK die each day from cervical cancer, with someone diagnosed every 3 hours
  • Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment.
  • It is estimated that the UK Cervical Screening Programmes save 5,000 lives every year.

[1] Department of Health, 2007

[2] Confidential Inquiry into the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD University of Bristol/DH2013)