Smear tests resume in Scotland in bid to tackle backlog

Appointments were cancelled as part of the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Cervical smear tests are to resume in Scotland as the health service tries to tackle the backlog from cancelled appointments due to coronavirus.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced that smear tests to detect cervical cancer will resume on June 29, with women whose appointments were cancelled told to contact their GP.

Further appointment invitations and reminders are also due to be posted from mid-July.

Smear tests were part of the health services paused from March 30 as part of attempts to restrict the spread of coronavirus and free up NHS capacity to treat patients infected with Covid-19.

Freeman said: “Our plans to resume the screening programmes are based on expert clinical advice and the recommendations of the Scottish Screening Committee.

“They have been discussed and agreed with health board chief executives as part of the planned safe and incremental remobilisation of NHS Scotland.

“The safety of patients and staff will continue to be our priority as the screening programmes restart and expand. I want to reassure you that we are taking these precautions so that we can safely offer the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “It’s great that cervical screening in Scotland is beginning to resume.

“We have seen a growing level of anxiety and confusion due to cancelled appointments, so we are pleased that access to this lifesaving test is restarting.

“Cervical screening is not always easy and many people have new questions and concerns about the test and how it all works now. We don’t want Covid-19 to make cervical screening harder, so do reach out to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust if you want support or more information before attending.”

Marion O’Neil, from Cancer Research UK, added: “It is great news that efforts are under way to restart cervical cancer screening services as we know cancer screening saves lives. It can detect cancers at an early stage and in some cases prevent them from developing in the first place.

“People who require further investigation need to be able to get follow-up appointments as quickly as possible.

“If people have any concerning symptoms while the screening programmes are getting back on track it is essential they get in touch with their GP practice.” 

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