'You are in control' - Suffolk project provides cervical screening for all

The 'VIP' cervical screening project is encouraging people in Suffolk of all backgrounds to book an appointment

The 'Very Important Invitation' cervical screening project is encouraging people in Suffolk of all backgrounds and identities to come for an appointment. - Credit: VIP Cervical Screening Project

A cervical screening service is working to reach people from all walks of life from all over Suffolk. 

The ‘Very Important Invitation’ cervical screening service has GP bases and clinics in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Haverhill, Wickham Market, Bury St Edmunds, Mildenhall, East Bergholt and Stowmarket.  

The project is a co-production between the Suffolk GP Federation, public health bodies, local charities and people in the community.

“We spend time talking to patients, and listen to the issues affecting them. We take that on board so their voices are heard,” explained Lucy Ainsley, the Project Co-Ordinator. 

The project can then communicate these issues to general practices. 

“We know that people can identify as non-binary. We also have patients who are transgender, so going through a transition from female to male, but may still have a cervix,” said Lucy. 

Often, an appointment for a cervical screening is made over the phone, she continued. This can be an intimidating experience for those whose voices might be read as male. 

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Lucy and the team encourage practices to be sensitive, and make any reasonable adjustments to make patients comfortable. 

For physically disabled patients, accommodations might need to be made with regards to travelling to and from a GP surgery, or getting on or off a couch. 

“With our learning-disabled patients, we need to know, do they understand why they come for cervical screenings? Can they consent to this appointment?” she continued. 

“It might be that we need to do some work with support workers.” 

A health educator could visit someone in their home, Lucy said, talking with them and even showing them the equipment that will be used. 

“A big thing we allow patients to do is insert their own speculum, at their own pace.” This can give back an element of control to those who have had traumatic experience. 

“What we always tell our patients, you are in control. If you say stop at any stage, that is fine.” 

Lucy and the team are working to build a presence in the community, spreading awareness and information. 

They spend time visiting schools, and are currently working on creating podcasts for the West Suffolk College and British Racing School. They hope to open a base in Newmarket soon. 

In July, they will be in attendance at Latitude.