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Cervical screening coverage falls for second consecutive year

*NHS Digital must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Regional data available within this report

Screening coverage2 across women aged 25-64, under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, was 72.73 per cent as at 31 March 2016, down from 73.5 per cent in 2015, and 75.7 per cent in 20114.

Figures released today by NHS Digital, show coverage was lowest among women aged 25 to 49 years - this was 70.2 per cent at 31 March 2016, compared to 71.2 per cent in 2015.

Amongst women aged 50 to 64 years, coverage was 78.0 per cent this year, compared to 78.4 per cent last year.

At a regional level5, coverage of the full target group (25 to 64 years), at 31 March 2016, ranged from 66.7 per cent in London to 75.9 per cent in the East Midlands.

NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England in 2015-16 includes statistics on: women aged 25 to 64 who are invited for regular screening; screening samples examined by pathology laboratories and referrals to colposcopy clinics. The report is used to inform policy and to monitor the quality and effectiveness of screening services.

The 2015-16 report also shows that:

  • A total of 4.21 million women aged 25 to 64 were invited for screening in 2015-16. This was a decrease of 2.4 per cent from 2014-15, when 4.31 million women were invited
  • The number of women tested6 in the 25 to 49 age group in 2015-16 was 2.34 million, a fall of 2.5 per cent from 2014-15. However, the number of women tested in the 50 to 64 age group, in 2015-16, was 0.74 million, representing a rise of 4.1 per cent from 2014-15
  • Cervical screening departments are expected to ensure that at least 98 per cent of result letters are received by post within two weeks of the test. In 2015-16, 89.1 per cent of letters sent to women tested were reported to have an expected delivery date of within two weeks of the sample being taken. In 2014-15, this measure was 91.0 per cent
  • The percentage of results showing a high-grade abnormality decreased with age. It was highest at 3.1 per cent for women aged 25-29, falling to less than 0.5 per cent for women aged 50 to 64

Read the full report at:   

1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology provider for the health and care system. Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better. NHS Digital is the new trading name for the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). We provide 'Information and Technology for better health and care'. Find out more about our role and remit at

2. National policy is that women are offered screening every three or five years depending on their age. Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for routine screening every three years, whereas those aged 50 to 64 are invited for routine screening every five years. Coverage is defined as the percentage of women in the population who were eligible for screening on 31 March in any given year, who were screened adequately within a specified period (within 3.5 years for women aged 25-49, and within 5.5 years for women aged 50-64). This measure is known as 'age-appropriate coverage' and is also used in the Public Health Outcomes Framework. Women ineligible for screening and not included in coverage are those whose recall has been ceased for clinical reasons (most commonly due to hysterectomy).

3. Numbers in this press release are rounded to two decimal places. Percentages are rounded to one decimal place.

4. The measure that covers all women in the ages invited for routine screening is only available from 2011 onwards.

5. The nine reporting regions are North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, London, South East and South West Time from screening to receipt of test results as measured by expected date of delivery is calculated from summing monthly data for local authorities.

6. Of those aged 25 to 64 tested in the year, over 2.5 million (82.5 per cent) were tested following an invitation from the screening programme. The remaining women (17.5 per cent) had screening tests not prompted by the programme, for example a test initiated by the sample taker or by the woman, without her necessarily having been invited by the screening programme.

7. For media enquires please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.


Last edited: 11 April 2018 5:34 pm