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Over half of cervical cancer screening letters were delayed last year

More than half of patients in England experienced delays in receiving their cervical cancer screening results in 2018/19, PHE data has revealed.

Data released yesterday by Public Health England (PHE) showed that only 48.4% of letters were received within the expected two-week timeframe, and a third of women waited over three weeks for results.

PHE claims delays over the implementation of HPV screening has impacted the cytology workforce and created a ‘lack of capacity in laboratories’ since 2016/17.

Delays in screening results have been mounting steadily year-on-year since 2011/12 when 95% of patients received their results in time.

National policy states that all women should receive their cervical screening test result within 14 days of the sample being taken, but no region in England came close to the 98% target in 2018/19.

There were also large variations across the country, with the North West reporting the highest percentage of letters received within two weeks, at 71.4%. Meanwhile, figures for Yorkshire and the Humber stood at a poor 21.4%.

However, there was a 0.5% uplift in the number of eligible women being screened last year, in part due to more younger women aged 25 to 49 attending. The number of women aged 25-64 adequately screened in 2018/19 was 71.9%. 

A spokesperson for the NHS said: 'Hundreds of thousands more women were screened for cervical cancer over the last year and the NHS will put further plans in place to increase uptake including through more convenient appointments, following Professor Sir Mike Richards’ independent review into screening.

‘A new and more accurate way of testing for cervical screening will be in place by the end of the year as part of the NHS long term plan’s efforts to catch more cancers earlier and ultimately save more lives.’

Capita admitted in June that due to 'administrative errors', 16 women had a delayed invitation to attend cervical screening and almost 100 were not removed from the screening register. 

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