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Cervical Cancer

Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 9 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent assessment he has made of the level of regional differences in cervical cancer rates in England; what steps his Department is taking to reduce higher rates; and if he will make a statement; (240823)

(2) how many women were (a) called for a smear test and (b) attended the screening in the latest period for which figures are available;

(3) what steps his Department is taking to increase the attendance rate for cervical screenings;

(4) what steps his Department is taking to improve awareness of cervical cancer amongst people in deprived areas.

In 2007-08, 4,177,720 women were invited for cervical screening by the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England, and 3,374,826 women were screened.

On 2 December 2008, the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) published a study showing that women living in more deprived areas were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than those living in more affluent areas. In the most deprived areas of England, there were 12 women per 100,000 diagnosed with cervical cancer between 2000 and 2004, compared to only six per 100,000 in the most affluent areas. The researchers mainly attributed this gap to the lower uptake of cervical screening in deprived areas.

The Cancer Reform Strategy, published in December 2007, (a copy of which has already been placed in the Library) said that we wished to reduce the variation of cervical screening coverage between primary care trusts. NHS Cancer Screening Programmes have commissioned the Improvement Foundation to work with six primary care trusts with deprived communities to develop and test initiatives that aim to improve the uptake of cervical screening in women aged 25 to 35. They are using social marketing techniques and, once the different possible initiatives have been evaluated, the results will be disseminated. The project begins in January 2009 and will run for one year.

In addition, in order to provide services with an incentive to introduce higher coverage, the decision has been taken to have a tariff for cervical screening. This is being taken forward by the Department working closely with NHS Cancer Screening Programmes.