Public Health England has published Health matters: making cervical screening more accessible, which includes a set of infographics and slides, as well as best practice case studies, to support local commissioning and service delivery.

Since the introduction of the NHS cervical screening programme in 1988, cervical cancer mortality rates have decreased by up to 70%; however, in 2014 there were still 726 deaths from the disease in England and 890 deaths in total in the UK. Attendance for cervical screening is now at a 19-year low and screening coverage has fallen over the last 10 years. UK researchers have estimated that cervical screening currently prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths in England; 83% of deaths could be prevented if everyone attended screening regularly.

Practice nurses can play a central role in educating women and consequently increasing attendance for screening. All women should have the opportunity to make an informed decision about their attendance for cervical screening, and this should be based on an understanding of:

  • why they are being offered screening
  • what happens during the test
  • the benefits and risks of screening
  • the potential outcomes (including types of result, further tests, and treatment)
  • what happens to their screening records.