Phased restart of cervical screening programme gets underway

Patients who have missed out on cervical screening appointments due to the Covid-19 lockdown will be able to reschedule them from today, the Scottish Government has announced
The phased restart of services will prioritise those women who receive more frequent non-routine cervical screening appointments.The phased restart of services will prioritise those women who receive more frequent non-routine cervical screening appointments.
The phased restart of services will prioritise those women who receive more frequent non-routine cervical screening appointments.

The programme, which provides routine screening for women across the country, was temporarily paused during the pandemic, but the government has outlined a phased restart as part of a wider remobilisation of NHS services.

From today, anyone who was invited for cervical screening, but who had yet to make an appointment, or had one cancelled, will be able to contact their GP in order to reschedule.

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Appointment invitations and reminders will be posted out from the middle of next month, with invitations sent first to those who receive more frequent non-routine cervical screening appointments, such as women whose results have shown changes that require further investigation.

Routine screening on a wider scale will recommence once NHS Scotland has caught up with non-routine appointments affected by the pause.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Pausing the adult national screening programmes was one of a series of difficult decisions we have had to make in responding to the impact of Covid-19.

“The programmes were temporarily paused on 30 March in order to reduce the risk of patients becoming infected with the virus, to enable physical distancing and minimise the impact on essential NHS services as they responded to Covid-19.”

Ms Freeman said the resumption of screening programmes was based on expert clinical advice and the recommendations of the Scottish Screening Committee. The steps have also been discussed and agreed with health board chief executives as part of the planned safe and incremental remobilisation of NHS Scotland.

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She added: “The safety of patients and staff will continue to be our priority as the screening programmes restart and expand. I want to reassure you that we are taking these precautions so that we can safely offer the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, said: ““It’s great that cervical screening in Scotland is beginning to resume. We have seen a growing level of anxiety and confusion due to cancelled appointments, so we are pleased that access to this lifesaving test is restarting.

“Cervical screening is not always easy, and many people have new questions and concerns about the test and how it all works now. We don’t want COVID-19 to make cervical screening harder, so do reach out to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust if you want support or more information before attending.”

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Marion O’Neil, head of external affairs for devolved nations at Cancer Research UK, said: “It is great news that efforts are underway to re-start cervical cancer screening services as we know cancer screening saves lives. It can detect cancers at an early stage and in some cases prevent them from developing in the first place.

People who require further investigation need to be able to get follow-up appointments as quickly as possible. If people have any concerning symptoms while the screening programmes are getting back on track it is essential they get in touch with their GP practice.”

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