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‘It should have been sooner’ - Thousands of women left waiting for cancer smear test results

PUBLISHED: 07:30 02 October 2018

Smeat test sample. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUST

Smeat test sample. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUST

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A smear test campaigner has raised fears about treatment delays after new figures showed thousands of women in Suffolk and north Essex are waiting too long for results.

Wendy Goddard, mother of Zoe who died of cervical cancer Picture: GREGG BROWNWendy Goddard, mother of Zoe who died of cervical cancer Picture: GREGG BROWN

Wendy Goddard, whose daughter Zoe, from Stowupland, died aged 27 from cervical cancer in 2016, said a quick turnaround on smear tests was vital in getting prompt treatment. A mandatory 14-day response time was introduced for cervical screening results in 2010 – and providers must meet the target in at least 98% of cases.

However, according to Freedom of Information responses from Public Health England, thousands of women in Suffolk and Essex are being made to wait longer.

During the 12 months to July, 90% of women screened in the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area waited longer than two weeks for their results. The figures for the Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCGs were 88% and 89% respectively. It means nearly 50,000 women who were tested over the 12 months did not get their results on time.

Mrs Goddard, who has taken up her daughter’s mantle in calling for women and girls to get themselves tested, said the statistics were “worrying”. “Zoe had to wait five weeks to get her results,” she said. “That’s five weeks that could have been used to start treatment. It should have been sooner.”

Robert Music, CEO of the charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUSTRobert Music, CEO of the charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUST

More than half of test results nationally were sent out late.

Leading cancer charities said the figures were “concerning”.

Robert Music, chief executive of cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust, said: “It is creating anxiety which is not a healthy thing, and our concern is that it could put women off attending their appointments.”

Impending changes which will see screenings look for the cancer-causing HPV virus, are being blamed for the backlog.

NHS England is responsible for delivering the screening programme and Public Health England maintains standards.

NHS England said: “NHS England and PHE are committed to the introduction of primary HPV screening, which will identify more women at risk and save more lives. Enabling laboratories to convert to HPV primary screening ahead of the procurement process, is just one practical step being taken to ensure the NHS achieves full coverage of primary HPV screening by December 2019.”

Mrs Goddard is organising a charity bingo for the Cervical Cancer Trust on November 17.

Email Wendy Goddard for more information

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