350,000 Women in Yorkshire Missing out on Vital Screening

20 January 2020

More than 350,000 women in Yorkshire are missing out on life-saving tests that could help prevent them from developing cervical cancer, according to statistics provided by Yorkshire Cancer Research. 

The latest figures published by Public Health England show that a quarter of women in the region are not regularly attending their cervical screening appointments1.

Cervical screening aims to find abnormal cells on the cervix so they can be removed before they become cancerous.

The number of women in Yorkshire who are up to date with their screening has increased very slightly by 0.63% in the last year1

However, this increase follows many years of decline in participation rates across the country, which led to a major national health campaign led by Public Health England in 20192

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “While it’s encouraging to see that participation rates have increased slightly, we still have lots of work to do to ensure as many women as possible are taking part in this vital test.

“Yorkshire Cancer Research is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of screening across the region. The charity is funding a range of research projects and services that will help to increase participation and save lives through prevention and early detection.”

Participation in cervical screening varies greatly across GP practices in Yorkshire, from 91% at a practice in NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG to 23% at a practice in NHS Leeds CCG1.

NHS Bradford City CCG has the lowest participation rate of the CCGs within Yorkshire, with just 61% of those eligible routinely accessing the free test1.

In December 2017, there were an estimated 4,026 women living with or beyond cervical cancer in Yorkshire3

From December 2019, cervical screening samples will be initially checked for the HPV virus, which causes the vast majority (99.7%) of all cervical cancer cases. If a sample tests positive for high risk types of HPV, it will then be checked for abnormal cells4

Women who test positive for HPV will have access to more regular screening and may eventually be invited for further testing. 

The changes have been introduced to identify women at high risk of developing cervical cancer sooner and save lives by providing closer monitoring.

Dr Scott added: “Cervical screening currently saves about 450 lives in Yorkshire every year4. With the introduction of HPV testing, it’s more important than ever that women attend screening when invited.”

Yorkshire Cancer Research is funding projects across the region to help increase cervical screening participation rates:

•    The charity’s Wise Up To Cancer initiative is working with GP practices in Wakefield to contact people who are not up to date with bowel, breast and cervical screening and offer additional advice and support. The programme has previously been delivered in community venues, GP practices and pharmacies in Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield to raise awareness of screening in areas where participation is low. The Bradford project focused on increasing screening participation among South Asian women. 

•    A new programme called Cancer Wise Leeds, supported by Leeds City Council and Leeds Cancer Programme, will create a network of screening and awareness coordinators across the city. The coordinators will work in individual communities to design and provide support and services that will increase participation in screening and raise awareness of signs, symptoms and risk factors.

•    A leaflet and short animation developed by researchers in Hull with funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research is helping to encourage older women to take part in screening. The materials were developed following a study led by Professor Una Macleod, Dean and Professor of Primary Care Medicine at Hull York Medical School, which included in-depth interviews with women over 50 about their experiences with screening. By 2036, the highest incidence of cervical cancer will be seen in women aged 55 to 595. This is due to the introduction of the HPV vaccine in 2008, which protects against some types of HPV and will reduce cervical cancer rates in younger women.

For more information about cervical screening, please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/.


Women, 24-64, attending cervical screening within target period (3.5 or 5.5 year coverage, %) - 2018/191: The table below shows the % of women aged 24-64 screened for cervical cancer in each CCG. It also shows the highest and lowest coverage % at a GP practice in each CCG.

• Yorkshire has a screening coverage that is slightly higher than the England average (74.8% compared to 72.6%).

• The only CCG in Yorkshire which has significantly lower screening coverage than the England average is NHS Bradford City at 61.4% (shown in red).

• The CCG with the highest average coverage in Yorkshire is NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG at 79.8% (significantly higher than England).

• The coverage rates in GP practices vary greatly, ranging from 90.9% in a practice in NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG, to 23.2% in a practice in NHS Leeds CCG

*  This GP practice only had one person eligible for screening so use with caution. 


1. Fingertips, National General Practice Profiles, Cancer, https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/general-practice/data#page/0/gid/1938132829/pat/152/par/E38000001/ati/7/are/B83620
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-launches-cervical-screening-saves-lives-campaign
3. CancerData, Cancer Prevalence in England – 23 year prevalence by demographic and geographic measures, https://www.cancerdata.nhs.uk/prevalence
4. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/changes-to-cervical-cancer-screening
5. Castanon A, Landy R, Pesola F, Windridge P, Sasieni P. Prediction of cervical cancer incidence in England, UK, up to 2040, under four scenarios: a modelling study. Lancet Public Health. 2018;3:e34-43. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(17)30222-0/fulltext

About Yorkshire Cancer Research

•    Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity. 
•    Current statistics show that 594 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. 
•    Our mission is for 2,000 more people to survive cancer every year in Yorkshire. 
•    There are lots of cancer problems across the region that need to be tackled on a local level. We work in partnership with researchers, clinicians, the NHS, public health bodies and other charities to fund innovative work in four key areas: prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and clinical trials. 
•    For more information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.


Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: nikki@ycr.org.uk

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