Women could be forced to wait months for smear test results as the planned closure of dozens of screening laboratories sends the service into ‘meltdown’, experts claim.
A Government campaign encouraging women to get the life-saving checks has coincided with the decision to shut 41 NHS testing labs.
Dozens of staff have left their posts ahead of the reduction in the number of facilities from 50 to nine, leading to a ‘shambolic’ backlog of samples waiting to be tested.
Dozens of staff have left their posts ahead of the reduction in the number of facilities from 50 to nine, leading to a ‘shambolic’ backlog of samples waiting to be tested
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Dr Alison Cropper, chairman of the British Association for Cytopathology, said: ‘The service is in meltdown’.
She warned that women face an agonising wait for smear test results, which are meant to be sent within 14 days.
There has been a surge in uptake for smear tests since Public Health England launched its first cervical cancer awareness campaign in January.
Figures revealed screening rates were at an all-time low, a trend blamed on ‘body image’ embarrassment. But Dr Cropper said the Government campaign was launched at ‘the worst time there could possibly have been’.
It is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the NHS screening programmes following blunders which meant hundreds of thousands were not invited for breast or cervical screening.
The Daily Mail has highlighted the tragic case of Julie O’Connor, 49, an NHS nurse who died last month after being wrongly told six times by Southmead Hospital in Bristol that she did not have cancer.
WHAT IS A SMEAR TEST?
A smear test detects abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina.
Removing these cells can prevent cervical cancer.
Most test results come back clear, however, one in 20 women show abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix.
In some cases, these need to be removed or can become cancerous.
Being screened regularly means any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing (stock)
Cervical cancer most commonly affects sexually-active women aged between 30 and 45.
In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites women aged 25-to-49 for a smear every three years, those aged 50 to 60 every five years, and women over 65 if they have not been screened since 50 or have previously had abnormal results.
Women must be registered with a GP to be invited for a test.
In the US, tests start when women turn 21 and are carried out every three years until they reach 65.
Changes in cervical cells are often caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transmitted during sex.
In January 2018, women shared selfies with smeared lipstick on social media to raise awareness of the importance of getting tested for cervical cancer in a campaign started by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.
Celebrities including model and socialite Tamara Ecclestone, former I'm A Celebrity! star Rebekah Vardy and ex-Emmerdale actress Gaynor Faye joined in to support the #SmearForSmear campaign.
Socialite Tamara Ecclestone supported the Jo's Trust's #SmearForSmear campaign
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6820537/Meltdown-cervical-screening-women-forced-wait-months-results.html