David Amess – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by David Amess on 2016-02-03.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to improve cervical screening rates among black and minority ethnic women.

Jane Ellison

NHS England closely monitors the coverage rates for cervical screening in all age groups and is committed to improving coverage and reducing variation between all groups including black and minority ethnic women, women with learning disabilities and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Local NHS England commissioners analyse coverage rates within their area and work with general practices to improve coverage by sharing best practice. For example, commissioners in London have developed a screening coverage strategy and delivery plan, including:

― Increased public awareness and engagement with screening programmes across all communities;

― increased engagement with primary care and improved reliability of data; and

― working with screening providers to optimise coverage.

In addition to this:

― A primary care cancer screening best practice guide has been developed jointly with the transforming cancer services team, clinical commissioning groups and local authority public health representatives;

― linking with Cancer Research UK facilitators and Macmillan Cancer Support general practitioners to support best practice for screening in general practice; and

― imperial College is conducting a randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of texting non-responders on improving coverage.

NHS England is working in partnership with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support on the ACE (Accelerate, Coordinate, Evaluate) Programme aiming to generate knowledge about effective approaches to achieve earlier diagnosis. A number of ACE test sites are evaluating approaches to increase screening rates in a range of groups, including black and ethnic minority women, women with learning disabilities and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

To explore the potential to increase rates of cervical screening in young women, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme has commissioned a £1 million study to determine which interventions are effective at increasing screening uptake amongst women aged 25 who are receiving their first invitation from the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. The study began in November 2011 and reports can be expected later in 2016.

In addition, the Department of Health Behavioural Insight team has undertaken a trial to investigate the use of behavioural insights to optimise the content of the invitation letter for cervical screening. Results are due in summer 2016.

A routine human papillomavirus vaccination programme has been available in England since 2008, and offers immunisation to girls aged 12-14 years. It is expected that the vaccine will reduce the already low rates of cervical cancer in these young women and allow them to be protected for years to come.