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Almost 100pc of women in Norfolk spared anxious wait for cervical screening results

PUBLISHED: 15:10 01 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:17 03 October 2018

Associate Health Care practitioners, Margarida Silva and Ian Potter, at work with in the HPV Lab at the Cotman Centre, where cervical smear samples are prepared for testing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Associate Health Care practitioners, Margarida Silva and Ian Potter, at work with in the HPV Lab at the Cotman Centre, where cervical smear samples are prepared for testing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

Women in Norfolk are being spared an anxious wait for smear test results, with almost 100pc receiving them within two weeks.

The county’s five Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) - which oversee cervical screenings - are among a minority of CCGs in England meeting the waiting time target.

A mandatory 14-day turnaround time was introduced for screening results in 2010. This means providers have to ensure they meet the target in at least 98pc of cases.

And in Norfolk, just shy of 100pc received results back within the time target in the 12 months up to July this year.

But the picture is not the same across England, with just under half of the 3.1 million results sent out late over the same period.

A total of 16 out of 195 CCGs met the threshold, with East Staffordshire failing to get any results out on time.

The long read: Number of cervical cancer screenings is falling - it’s time to break the stigma.

Carol Taylor, senior biomedical scientist, studies the cells in cervical smear samples at the Cotman Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCarol Taylor, senior biomedical scientist, studies the cells in cervical smear samples at the Cotman Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Robert Music, chief executive of cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust, said: “Lots of people have approached us through our helpline saying they are waiting 12, 14, 16 weeks for their results.

“It is creating anxiety which is not a healthy thing, and our concern is that it could put women off attending their appointments.

“With screening attendance already at a 20-year low, that is worrying.”

Impending changes to the way cervical screenings are carried out are being blamed for the backlog.

The Cotman Centre at the Norwich Research Park, where cervical smear samples are tested. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Cotman Centre at the Norwich Research Park, where cervical smear samples are tested. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A new test, which will look for the cancer-causing HPV virus straight away rather than for abnormal cells in the cervix, will be rolled out across the whole of England in 2019.

This test is already being carried out at the Cytopathology Department at the Cotman Centre, run by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Once a women attends her cervical screening appointment, the smear sample is then sent away to be tested at one of dozens of cytology laboratories across the country.

In Norfolk, it will be sent to the Cotman Centre.

NHS England has overarching responsibility for delivering the screening programme but Public Health England also plays a part in setting and maintaining standards.

The figures come following a recent Freedom of Information request by RADAR to Public Health England.

Norfolk’s Cytopathology Department

The Cytopathology Department at the Cotman Centre, run by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N), receives workload from James Paget University Hospital, N&N, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn and general practitioners from most of Norfolk, parts of Suffolk, and further.

It is one of the largest cytology departments in the country and receives approximately 55,000 smear tests per annum, as well as around 4,000 non-gynae tests.

Most of the preparation methods within the laboratory are automated and preparatory work is carried out by trained biomedical support workers.

Cervical sample preparations are examined under a microscope to look for cells that may indicate precancerous conditions of the uterine cervix. Occasionally cervical cytology is useful in identifying other abnormalities such as ovarian and endometrial cancers.

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