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Fewer regions hitting national cervical smear test target

by Jess Hacker
15 December 2021

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Coverage for cervical smear tests in some areas of England was more than 30 percentage points lower than in others, new annual figures have shown.

Published by NHS Digital (14 December), the dataset showed that no local authorities reached the national target of 80% coverage.

And only 91 out of 149 had coverage levels of 70% and above, down by 12 on the year before.

However, the number of individual people being tested fell only slightly in 2020-21 compared to the previous year.

Additionally, the data indicated that uptake in Kensington and Chelsea (45.8%) – the area with the lowest coverage – was 32 percentage points lower than Derbyshire (78.4%), the area with the highest.

More than 3 million tested

A total of 3.03 million people aged 25 to 64 were tested this year, marking a decrease of 5.3% compared to the previous year, when 3.2 million were tested.

Among eligible 25- to 64-year-olds, 70% were screened within the required number of years, representing a drop of only two percentage points.

The five local authorities with the lowest coverage were all London boroughs.

Meanwhile, the five areas with the highest coverage were:

  • Derbyshire (78.4%)
  • Nottinghamshire (77.8%)
  • North Yorkshire (77.6%)
  • East Riding of Yorkshire (77.4%)
  • Northumberland (77.3%)

It comes after analysis published earlier this year revealed the number of young people attending cervical screening tests at their GP practice increased by 19% in line with a national uptake campaign.

Earlier this year, a BJGP study recommended practices work with trans-specific sexual health services after finding only 7% of trans men and non-binary people preferred seeing a GP for their cervical screening.