Cervical screening coverage in England declined during the Covid-19 pandemic, with some areas screening only half of eligible individuals, data has revealed.
But the figures, published this week by NHS Digital, found overall coverage dropped by 2% among eligible 25- to 64-year-olds – from 72.2% in 2019-20 to 70.2% in 2020-21.
Uptake varied significantly, with coverage in Kensington and Chelsea (45.8%) – the area with the lowest coverage – falling to 32% lower than Derbyshire (78.4%), the area with the highest. No local authorities reached the national target of 80% coverage.
In total, 4.95 million individuals were invited for a screening in 2020-21 – a 1% decrease on 4.63 million in 2019-20. And 3.03 million were tested were carried out in 2020/21, which is a 5% drop from 3.2 million the year before.
All screening regions across the country reported a decrease in coverage compared with 2020, highlighted NHS Digital, which added that regional coverage also varied.
The five local authorities with the lowest coverage were all London boroughs. The five areas with the highest coverage were Derbyshire (78.4%), Nottinghamshire (77.8%), North Yorkshire (77.6%), East Riding of Yorkshire (77.4%) and Northumberland (77.3%).
Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for regular cervical screening under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. This is intended to detect abnormalities within the cervix and prevent the potential development of cervical cancer.
The data comes after research from November found girls who receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine are significantly more protected against cervical cancer.