Cervical screening repeat rates falling

In collaboration with the Press Association

Improvements to cervical screening have reduced the number of women who need to return for a second test, a government report has found.

The number of smear samples needing to be repeated has fallen from one in ten to 7.2 per cent, said the Information Centre for Health and Social Care report.

Samples are typically returned because they have been contaminated. The falls have occurred following the introduction of new and more accurate screening methods.

The new liquid-based cytology (LBC) screening was introduced in 2003 on the recommendation of regulators, and is currently used in half of all screening centres.

"These figures are extremely encouraging as they show that women are already benefiting from the new LBC technology," said director of NHS screening Julietta Patnick.

"Not only is the number of inadequate tests falling, reducing anxiety and the number of repeat tests required, but women are also getting their results faster.

"Almost a third of women - 32 per cent - are now receiving their results within four weeks," she added. LBC testing is expected to be in use across the country by 2008.

The number of women in the 24 to 65 age group screened in 2005/06 rose from 3.28 million to 3.36 million although it remains below the 80 per cent target coverage.