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Report shows decrease in cervical screening coverage in England

NHS Digital1 must be quoted as the source of these figures

Regional data available in this report

7 November 2017

Cervical screening coverage2 for women eligible for testing has fallen by 0.7 percentage points in the last year, according to statistics published today by NHS Digital.

Latest figures for the NHS Cervical Screening Programme for the 2016-17 financial year show that coverage for women aged 25 to 64 was 72.0 per cent as at 31 March 2017, down from 72.7 per cent in 2016 and from 75.7 percent in 2011, when collection of age appropriate coverage began.3

As at 31 March 2017:

  • coverage for women aged 25 to 49 was 69.6 per cent, compared to 70.2 per cent in 2016
  • for women aged 50 to 64, coverage was 77.2 per cent, a decline from 78.0 per cent in 2016
  • at a regional level,4 coverage of the full target group (ages 25 to 64) ranged from 65.7 per cent in London to 75.4 per cent in the East Midlands
  • all regions reported a fall in coverage when compared with 2016

NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England in 2016-17 reports on screening intended to detect abnormalities within the cervix that could, if left undetected and untreated, develop into cervical cancer.

This publication 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.

Key findings for the target age group of women aged 25 to 64 included:

  • a total of 4.45 million women were invited for screening in 2016-17. This represents an increase of 5.6 per cent from 2015-16, when 4.21 million women were invited
  • the number of women tested in 2016-17 was 3.18 million, an increase of 2.9 per cent from 2015-16, when 3.09 million women were tested5

The percentage of results showing a high-grade abnormality decreased with age. It was highest at 2.7 per cent for women aged 25-29, falling to less than 0.5 per cent for women aged 50 to 64.

Annual data will also be available for the first time through an interactive online tool, which will provide more detailed information to Clinical Commissioning Group level.

Data dashboards containing quarterly figures were developed by NHS Digital, Public Health England and Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust earlier this year to help identify where screening levels could be improved and encourage work to boost coverage.6


Read the full report

NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England in 2016-17


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  1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of 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. During the 2016/17 financial year, NHS Digital published 292 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

  2. Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for routine cervical 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. When collection of age appropriate coverage began in 2011, coverage stood at 75.7 per cent. There has been a decrease in screening coverage every year since then except 2014, when there was a 0.3% increase compared to the previous year.

  4. 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.

  5. Not to be confused with 'coverage' (see footnote above), this is simply a count of how many women were tested within the 2016-17 financial year.

  6. The interactive dashboards containing quarterly figures are available for GP data, for Clinical Commissioning Group data and for local authority data. They will next be updated on 14 November. Find out about more background information.

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

  8. For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.

Last edited: 11 April 2018 5:39 pm