£129,335 will prevent 'real risk' cervical cancer not spotted in time

Woman named Ruth Bushaway

Dr Ruth Bushaway, Suffolk GP Federation's medical director, hopes a grant will increase the uptake of cervical cancer screening - Credit: Suffolk GP Federation

Suffolk GP Federation is hoping to increase the uptake of the cervical cancer smear test across the county by targeting specific groups.

Thanks to a grant of £129,335 by the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System’s (ICS) Cancer Transformation Programme, a team of four nurses from east and west Suffolk will be recruited to be cervical screening health educators.

This work will build on a Suffolk GP Federation initiative, started in October last year, to increase the uptake of cervical screening by providing weekday evening and weekend appointments

Dr Ruth Bushaway, the Suffolk GP Federation's medical director, said: “Suffolk GP Federation is passionate about addressing inequalities in health care and this service will target specific groups who are far less likely to accept their cervical smear invitation than others.

“These include women who have never had a smear, who live in deprived communities, who are from ethnic minorities or who have a learning disability or mental health issues.

“If you’re in one of these categories and some others, there is a real risk that cases of cervical cancer will not be spotted until it is too late for treatment.

"This is what drives us to want to make things better.”

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Among the other groups that will be targeted are women aged 25 to 49 who have not been screened in four years, women aged 50 to 64 who have not had a smear test in six years and the LGBT community.

Online educational sessions and focus groups will be provided, alongside longer appointment slots, pre-appointment telephone consultations and language aids.

Dr Bushaway believes the extended service and education programme would be the first of its kind in the East of England.

Since the Suffolk GP Federation started to manage cervical screening services six months ago, a total of 450 women have come forward. About 20% have been from ethnic minorities.

Dr Peter Holloway, a Mendlesham GP who is the GP cancer lead for the ICS, said: "It is a superb example of active collaboration in primary care to increase early cancer diagnosis and so improve outcomes."