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Practices urged to provide more equipment for disabled cervical cancer screenings

by Eleanor Philpotts
4 September 2019

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Practices should provide more equipment to ensure greater uptake of cervical cancer screening among disabled patients, a study has recommended. 

A report by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust looked at the barriers that can hinder disabled women’s uptake of smear tests.

It found that the majority (88%) of the 335 surveyed said it was harder for women with physical disabilities to attend or access cervical screening.

In addition, 63% felt unable to attend cervical screening at all as a result of their disability, while a fifth needed a hoist to help them onto the examination bed and into a correct position – but just 1% reported this equipment was available at their GP surgery. 

One patient testimony said: ‘I have been told by members of staff at another GP practice (as well as my current) that I can’t have one as they have no way of safely getting me onto the examination table and both surgeries aren’t covered by insurance to do it in patients’ homes where the right equipment is.’

The report recommended that home visists be considered if patients are unable to attend the practice. 

It said: ‘Where they are not possible, arrangements for screening at a more accessible venue must be arranged to ensure women living with debilitating conditions are not put at increased risk of cervical cancer.’

It also recommended:

  • National support to address inequity in access;
  • GP practices review their policies and practice to ensure pathways or adjustments are in place so every woman can access cervical screening;
  • CQC and health inspectorates to regulate access in general practice; 
  • Research on the most effective way of offering cervical screening to women with a physical disability, including feasibility of HPV self-sampling;
  • Sample taker training and refresher training to include potential needs and adjustments for women with a physical disability.

Chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Robert Music said: ‘Every eligible woman should be able to access cervical screening should they wish to. It can prevent the development of cervical cancer and saves around 5,000 lives in the UK every year.

‘Going for a test can be difficult for many reasons, and with cervical screening uptake in decline we should be working to overcome barriers not introducing them.’