• Sunday, August 14, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

NHS to provide home testing kits to women as part of cervical screening programme

By: Pramod Thomas

AS part of the national NHS cervical screening programme, more than 31,000 women will be given kits to carry out smear tests to screen for the Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer.

It is the first time home smear tests have been trialled in England and is being rolled out through 166 GP practices, the NHS England on Wednesday(24).

The swab tests will be posted to women or given out by a GP. It will go to women aged 25-64 years who are 15 months overdue for a check and live in Barnet, Camden, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets where screening appointment attendance is low, an official statement said.

NHS national clinical director for cancer, Professor Peter Johnson, said: “This is an important new way to make screening easier for thousands of women. We know there are lots of reasons why women might not attend a screening appointment, including worries about Covid.

“GPs have taken extra precautions to make surgeries safe, and these home kits give thousands of women another option to keep up to date with their screening. We would urge every woman to make sure they have their smear test – the earlier HPV is detected the better. It could save your life.”

The YouScreen trial is being run by NHS England, Public Health England and King’s College London, and will run until December 2021.

Once complete, women can post their completed swab directly to the NHS Cervical Screening Programme’s London laboratory. Results will be sent back in the post and to their GP surgeries.

If the home test detects HPV, women will be invited to attend their GP practice for a standard smear test as a follow-up.

Dr Anita Lim, from King’s College London, who is leading the study, said: “Self-sampling is a game-changer for cervical screening. We know many women aren’t coming forward for screening and almost half of women in some parts of London aren’t up to date with their cervical screening.

“It’s an intimate procedure and a variety of barriers can stop people from attending, even though it can be a life-saving test. This simple and convenient swab means it can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own home.

“Women who don’t come for regular screening are at the highest risk of developing cervical cancer, so it is crucial that we find ways like this to make screening easier and protect women from what is a largely preventable cancer.”

In total, 19,000 women will be posted a kit and 12,000 will be given one by their GP, with research showing that 99 per cent of women are able to carry out a self-swab effectively, the NHS said.

Ruth Stubbs, national cervical screening programme manager at PHE, said: “This YouScreen study is the first step in getting closer to HPV self-sampling at home for women across England. London has the lowest cervical screening coverage in the country and is ideal for testing this study. It will evaluate the impact on improving cervical screening participation in London.

As part of the trial, women will also be able to access a video explaining how to carry out the test at home.

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