FSRH statement: cervical screening rates continue to fall below national target

Posted 21 November 2019

Date: 21 Nov 2019

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

Latest figures by NHS Digital for the NHS Cervical Screening Programme 2018-19 show that only 71.9% of eligible women (aged 25 to 64) were screened at the specified period, a small increase from 71.4% at March 2018. The rate is below the national target of 80% coverage.

Rates in the younger age bracket (25-49), when there is higher risk for cervical abnormalities, have also stayed below the national target at 69.8%, a slight increase from 69.1% in the last period.

According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 3,200 new cervical cancer cases in the UK every year. Incidence rates for cervical cancer in the UK are highest in young females. Around 99.8% of cases are preventable.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“Cervical screening is a vital test to detect early changes to the cervix and early treatment to prevent development into cervical cancer.

“Acceptable performance of the cervical screening programme is defined as achieving coverage levels of 80%, the national target, or greater. Yet for years now we have seen cervical screening rates fall way below the national target.

“Many women choose to access cervical screening at sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) services. However, cuts to funding and a fragmented commissioning system have created extra barriers for women. The number of screenings in SRH services has fallen substantially in the last five years. Cervical screening is not a mandated requirement for local authority commissioning and is not included in many service specifications.

“The national review of adult screening programmes commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and lead by Professor Sir Mike Richard acknowledges that sexual and reproductive health services have a role to play in increasing uptake. We agree that providers such as SRH services need to be incentivised to provide cervical screening and call for an integrated approach to commissioning between primary care and sexual and reproductive health.

“We look forward to collaborating with the Department of Health and Social Care to implement the recommendations from Professor Sir Mike Richard’s review.”


For media enquiries, please contact Camila Azevedo, External Affairs Manager, at externalaffairsmanager@fsrh.org / 02037945309

Notes to editors

  • Latest figures by NHS Digital for the NHS Cervical Screening Programme 2017-18 can be found here.
  • Women are offered screening every three or five years depending on their age. Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for regular cervical screening under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. Coverage is defined as the percentage of women eligible for screening at a given point in time who were screened adequately within a specified period (within 3.5 years for women aged 25 to 49, and within 5.5 years for women aged 50 to 64).
  • Cancer Research UK figures can be found here.
  • Professor Sir Mike Richards’ Review of National Adult Screening Programmes was commissioned in November 2018 following two high-profile screening incidents in the NHS breast and cervical cancer screening programmes. FSRH, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and the British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (BSCCP) submitted a response to the review, which can be found here. The outcome of the review was published in October 2019, and FSRH and RCOG’s joint response to it can be found here.
  • The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes The Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. For more information please visit: www.fsrh.org