Scottish Labour attacks SNP in row over cervical cancer screening

The party is demanding the Scottish Government act to speed up the roll-out of self-sampling for the disease.

Scottish Labour attacks SNP in row over cervical cancer screening Getty Images

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP-led Scottish Government of treating women’s health as an “afterthought” in a row over cervical cancer screening.

Responses to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests filed by the party show only one health board in the whole of Scotland has piloted self-sampling for the disease.

The Scottish Government’s Women’s Health Plan, which was published in 2021, contained a commitment to improve self-sampling within a year of its release.

According to FoI responses received by Scottish Labour, however, only NHS Dumfries and Galloway has undertaken a pilot scheme since the document was published.

The party is now demanding the SNP act to speed up the roll-out of self-sampling as it fears thousands of women who may be at risk of cervical cancer are being missed by current screening efforts.

Scottish Labour women’s health spokesperson Carol Mochan MSP said: “Despite promises of action years ago from the SNP, the failure to progress a roll-out of self-sampling is yet another SNP broken promise on women’s health.

“It remains the case that inequalities exist in relation to screening between those living in the most and least deprived areas and that is why it remains of critical importance for screening programmes to continue to develop and advance.

“That only one health board in Scotland has piloted self-sampling is simply unacceptable.

“The SNP government must wake up to the ticking timebomb of cervical cancer and act to ensure the piloting of self-sampling is rolled out nationwide.”

Scottish Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health Jenni Minto responded: “Women’s health is a priority for the Scottish Government, which is why a range of steps are being taken to implement the 2021 Women’s Health Plan.

“The Women’s Health Champion meets with the Women’s Health Minister regularly and also meets with members of all parties, to hear of their concerns and priorities.

“Cervical cancer self-sampling has the potential to overcome some of the barriers that prevent people attending a screening appointment, however, the UK National Screening Committee is yet to recommend its use in the screening programme.

“We are monitoring the situation closely, and laying the groundwork for a potential rollout, so we can implement it as soon as possible when a recommendation is made.”

She added: “Cervical screening can prevent cancer before it even starts, so it is hugely important that people make an appointment to attend when they are invited.”

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