Calls for more support as women excluded from cervical screening get fast-tracked appointments

Health boards have contacted 174 women who may have been “wrongly excluded” from the cervical screening programme to offer them new fast-track appointments, amid calls for more support.

Maree Todd gave an update about women who had been excluded from the screening programme.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd updated MSPs about the findings of the review of women whose records indicated they may have had sub-total hysterectomies before 1997, but who were subsequently excluded from screening. It was revealed in June that a woman had died after this happened to her.

All health boards were asked to audit cases and have now written to 174 women affected offering appointments appropriate to their individual circumstances. This includes those who need to be reinstated in the screening programme, and those who are being offered a gynaecological appointment either because their age means they are no longer eligible for screening or where it is not clear from their records whether they should still be taking part in screening. The government said that anyone affected should have now received a letter.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP insisted more had to be done.

“This update only scratches the surface. Huge questions remain about how this error went undiscovered for so long, and why Ministers withheld details about it until after the election.

“This also does little to settle the serious anxieties many women and their families will be experiencing. Active risks remain for some, and signposting people to their GP isn’t enough support. The Scottish Government have a responsibility to ensure these women can access all the urgent and comprehensive care they need.”

He added: “This serves as a tragic reminder of the importance of cancer screening services, and of how important it is to see these programmes rebooted to deal with the post pandemic backlog as soon as possible.”

The care offered to women identified by this review is the same as for those whose operations took place from 1997 onwards, which was outlined by the Minister when she informed Parliament that an urgent review of cases had been carried out. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust will also continue to offer support to any women who are concerned they may be affected, via their helpline services.

Ms Todd said: “We recognise the anxiety anyone receiving a letter will almost certainly feel, and we are sorry for that. It is important to stress that the risk of developing cervical cancer is extremely low – fewer than one in 100 women will develop it in their lifetimes.

“As we have stressed throughout this incident, anyone who is experiencing symptoms of cervical cancer – that is anyone experiencing unusual discharge, or bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause – should make an appointment with their GP practice. More information on symptoms is available on NHS Inform. I will provide a more detailed update to Parliament on this issue after recess.”

On 24 June, the minister informed Parliament that around 430 women who had been incorrectly excluded from cervical screening since 1997 had been sent letters offering them fast-tracked appointments with their GP practice or gynaecology services. She also committed to updating Parliament on ongoing work to audit cases from before 1997.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.