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NHS England sets target to eliminate cervical cancer

NHS England sets target to eliminate cervical cancer

NHS England aims to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040 by increasing uptake of the HPV vaccine and cervical screening.

As part of a new vaccination drive, NHS England will support health and care professionals to identify patients in most need of the HPV vaccine via ‘targeted outreach’ and offering jabs in convenient local places such as libraries and community centres.

The NHS App will undergo expansion so that people can view their full vaccine record and book appointments in a ‘new dedicated space’ – currently only Covid and flu vaccination status is visible, but this will be increased to all 15 routine vaccine-preventable diseases, including HPV.

The NHS will also look to boost cervical screening by trialling ‘self-sampling’ to see if it could become part of national screening.

Last year, over five million people aged 25 to 64 were invited for screening, which NHS England said is ‘more…than ever before’.

According to the World Health Organisation, cervical cancer is considered to be eliminated when its incidence rate is lower than four per 100,000 women.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard will announce the pledge later today at the NHS Providers’ annual conference.

She will say it is an ‘important, life-saving ambition’ which could become a reality over the next two decades.

‘Vaccination and screening are the key tools which mean we are one step closer to achieving this and the NHS is already making it easier than ever before for people to protect themselves and their families – whether it’s through community outreach in areas of lower uptake or expanding the NHS app so that everyone has their vaccine history and booking options in the palm of their hand,’ Ms Pritchard will say.

The HPV routine and post-pandemic catch up programmes mean that by year 10, 86.5% of girls and 81.5% of boys have received one dose of the vaccine.

Children are currently offered one dose at 12 or 13 years of age via the school aged immunisation service, and anyone who misses this is able to catch up with their GP practice until the age of 25.

From September this year, following JCVI advice, these groups in England were offered a single dose of the HPV vaccine instead of two. 

This HPV vaccination drive is part of wider NHS England plans, which are due to be published shortly, to increase vaccine uptake by improving online booking methods.

The vaccine works by preventing invasive strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) which is known to cause the vast majority of cervical cancers, while NHS screening uses a test which checks for high-risk HPV in the cervix. The presence of high-risk HPV could cause abnormal cells to develop, which if left untreated could turn into cancer.

NHS Providers’ director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin said they ‘welcome’ the pledge and ‘innovative strategies’ which demonstrate a ‘forward-thinking approach to healthcare’.

She said: ‘These measures not only aim to improve accessibility but also ensure that health services are more responsive to the needs of diverse communities.

‘Ensuring healthcare staff have the resources and training needed to effectively implement these plans is crucial for success.

‘A focus on education and increasing public awareness about the importance of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and regular cervical screening is also vital.’

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse

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