Baldock woman’s hell as patients face long delays for smear test results

Alison Slingsby has waited 16 weeks for her cervical screening test results. Picture courtesy of Ali

Alison Slingsby has waited 16 weeks for her cervical screening test results. Picture courtesy of Alison Slingsby. - Credit: Archant

Women are facing long, often anxious, waits for the results of their cervical screening tests, as NHS England admits there is a problem in our area.

Alison Slingsby, of Providence Way in Baldock, was kept waiting for 16 weeks for her cervical screening test results – also known as a smear test.

The test can detect abnormal cells on the cervix which, if removed, can prevent cervical cancer.

Alison, 52, is a patient at The Baldock Surgery on the town’s High Street and said: “I waited 16 weeks for my results, but I know other people who have been waiting longer.

“I have had abnormal cells before, when I was 26, so I went through hell worrying for more than three months.

“When I phoned the surgery, they say they had no idea when the results would be available and they couldn’t give me any kind of reassurance.”

NHS guidelines state that results should be issued within two weeks of a test, but NHS England has told the Comet it is aware of a problem in our area.

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A spokesman said: “We are aware some patients in east and north Hertfordshire are currently waiting longer than expected for cervical screening test results and we are working closely with the screening service provider to reduce these delays as quickly as possible.”

Alison said: “It’s diabolical women are being kept waiting this long, suffering every day with the anxiety of not knowing if they have cancer or not.”

Dr Michael Eden – the clinical lead for the Cervical Cytology Network, which provides cervical screening for our area – said: “We would like to reassure women that if they go to their GP with symptoms that cause concern, and they are due or overdue for screening, their test will be marked as urgent and the results turned around rapidly.

“Depending on the symptoms, their GP may consider it more appropriate to refer for further investigation. However, the results from routine cervical screening take up to 12 weeks due to the current staff shortages in regional and national screening capacity. We welcome the national roll out of human papilloma virus primary screening in 2020, which will increase regional and national capacity.”

The Institute of Biomedical Science says an overhaul of the cervical screening programme, which will see the number of laboratories involved cut by up to 80 per cent in England, is compounding backlogs and delays.

A test for the Human Papilloma Virus – the cause for 99.7 per cent of cervical cancers – will replace cytology screening by the end of 2019 and will be centralised within 10 to 13 labs, instead of the current 50.

About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK. Since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about seven per cent each year.