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Increasing cervical screening attendance

The number of women attending cervical screening in the UK is falling, with over one in four women not attending when invited. Attendance is currently at its lowest in 21 years in England and at a 10 year low in Scotland and Wales.

Cervical cancer can be prevented and GP surgeries, Local Authorities, CCGs and the four UK Governments all have a key role to play in increasing awareness of cervical screening and encouraging women to attend this potentially life-saving test.

We hope to support, inspire and motivate activity.

How is your area performing? 

Why are women not attending cervical screening?

There is no one reason why attendance of cervical screening is falling.

Through our research we have identified some of the barriers experienced by different groups of women.

Please use this data to help you when you are discussing cervical screening with your patients and to inform your work.

How to increase attendance

Finding out who your non-attenders are and the barriers that are preventing them from attending cervical screening is vital. This will enable you to create targeted interventions and campaigns that will resonate most with that specific group of women.

Released in 2017 and 2018, our Cervical screening in the spotlight reports asked every Local Authority and CCG in England about activity undertaken to increase screening attendance. The data from this report has helped us identify some excellent ideas and initiatives being employed by clinics and practices across the UK.

They can be grouped in the following ways:

Utilising resources

  • Using all available channels to promote cervical screening; including features in local resident magazines, issuing press releases and using digital channels such as social media
  • Supporting awareness weeks; including Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and Cervical Screening Awareness Week, through organising information stalls, displaying posters and distributing information across venues including hairdressers, GP surgeries, pharmacies, libraries, gyms, children’s centres, job centres and public toilets
  • Developing targeted materials for specific groups of women; including Easy Read guides for women with a learning disability and radio or social media campaigns for younger women

Access to screening

  • Find out how access to screening varies across the country in our recent report
  • Increasing accessibility, for example by arranging extra screening clinics at the weekend or in evenings, or increasing availabilty of appointment times
  • Working with local sexual health providers to assess provision through services  
  • Signing up to the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Time to Test campaign to allow employee time to attend their cervical screening appointments.


  • Incentivising improvements in GP practices, for example through quality improvement schemes or local quality indicators
  • Analysing local practice coverage figures at relevant forums, such as the CCG’s Quality Improvement Group


  • Working with faith groups and community groups to reach women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities
  • Signposting to cervical screening in NHS Health Checks

Training and work at a practice level

  • Holding educational events for practices or sessions on cervical screening as part of GP Protected Learning Time
  • Working with GP practices that have low attendance to implement initiatives to follow up with non-attenders
  • Providing training to frontline healthcare staff and the wider public health workforce, including GPs, pharmacists, receptionists and health trainers, so they can positively promote cervical screening
  • Encouraging the clinical lead for cancer visiting practices, particularly where attendance is low, to discuss how they can reverse this and contact non-responders
  • Working with public health colleagues to promote local awareness campaigns and to train non-clinical cancer champions

Don't forget

Having a good experience during the cervical screening appointment can have an affect not only on a woman’s wellbeing, but also on the likelihood of her reattending. Please read our best practice for sample takers for some tips on how to ensure patients have the best experience possible.

Access our guides on:

Download materials

Download posters, leaflets and information from our online shop.

Find out more

Looking for extra support?

Email us at [email protected] to find out how we can provide information and support.

If you live in London or Glasgow, get in touch to find out how our Public Health Engagement team can support you.

Date last updated: 
27 Aug 2020
Date due for review: 
27 Aug 2020
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