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Public health minister updates parliament on cervical screening

Published: 23 Aug 2021 12:30

Women inappropriately excluded from screening will be offered fast-tracked appointments

The Public Health Minister has updated parliament on progress regarding a further review of women who may have been wrongly excluded from the cervical screening programme.

In response to a Government Initiated Question, Maree Todd informed MSPs of the findings of the review of women whose records indicated they may have had sub-total hysterectomies before 1997, but who were subsequently excluded from screening.

All health boards were asked to audit cases and have now written to around 174 women affected offering appointments appropriate to their individual circumstances. This includes those who need to be reinstated in the screening programme, and those who are being offered a gynaecological appointment either because their age means they are no longer eligible for screening or where it is not clear from their records whether they should still be taking part in screening. Anyone affected should have now received a letter.

The care offered to women identified by this review is the same as for those whose operations took place from 1997 onwards, which was outlined by the Minister when she informed Parliament that an urgent review of cases had been carried out. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust will also continue to offer support to any women who are concerned they may be affected, via their helpline services.

Ms Todd said: “We recognise the anxiety anyone receiving a letter will almost certainly feel, and we are sorry for that. It is important to stress that the risk of developing cervical cancer is extremely low – fewer than one in 100 women will develop it in their lifetimes.

“As we have stressed throughout this incident, anyone who is experiencing symptoms of cervical cancer – that is anyone experiencing unusual discharge, or bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause – should make an appointment with their GP practice. More information on symptoms is available on NHS Inform. I will provide a more detailed update to Parliament on this issue after recess.”

Background:

Motions, Questions and Answers Search - Parliamentary Business :  Scottish Parliament

On 24 June, the minister informed Parliament that around 430 women who had been incorrectly excluded from cervical screening since 1997 had been sent letters offering them fast-tracked appointments with their GP practice or gynaecology services. She also committed to updating Parliament on ongoing work to audit cases from before 1997.

Action to address incorrect exclusions from cervical screening - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Health boards have now carried out this audit and in total, 484 records were reviewed:

  • 204 women were found to have been correctly excluded and no further action is necessary
  • 39 women have been wrongly excluded and are still in the eligible age range for screening. These patients will be re-instated to the programme and asked to contact their GP practice to make an appointment for screening
  • 46 women have been wrongly excluded but are now no longer eligible for screening due to their age. These patients will be offered an appointment at a gynaecology clinic
  • 89 women’s records did not allow a determination to be made on the appropriateness of their exclusion. These patients will also be offered an appointment at a gynaecology clinic
  • A small number of women are no longer resident in Scotland. Efforts will be made to trace them, and they will be re-instated in the screening programme so that they will be invited again for screening should they return to Scotland
  • 100 women are now deceased. As noted in the statement given to Parliament on 24 June, a review is being carried out into the deaths of anyone who may have been excluded in error from the programme to verify whether cervical cancer was a main or contributory cause of death

The Health Secretary and the Public Health Minister have met with and updated  opposition spokespeople during Parliament Recess.

 Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has made its national helpline available to anyone with concerns.  People can call the free helpline on 0808 802 8000 or they can visit the website at www.jostrust.org.uk or email  helpline@jostrust.org.uk.