Jade Goody charity bemoans cuts after a quarter miss smear tests

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Ten years after the death of Jade Goody from cervical cancer thousands of women are missing smear tests.

New NHS figures show that of the 383,900 women who should have had the screening done as of 2018/19 – a quarter of women – or 95,591 – in Essex haven’t had their smear test done.

The figures are still dramatically lower than the high numbers seen after the death of reality TV star Jade at the age of 27.

Even in 2013/14 around 80 per cent of women in Essex were seen less than five years after their last appointment.

But just 75.1 per cent of women had been screened as of 2018/19 – far below the national target of 80 per cent.

The rate was even lower in Thurrock (72.5 per cent) and Southend-on-Sea (71 per cent).

A spokesperson for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the East of England, said: “Recent figures show that more people in Suffolk and Essex attended their cervical screening appointment than last year.

“We would strongly advise everyone who gets a letter about attending a cervical smear test to attend, even those who have been vaccinated for HPV in previous years – screening saves lives.”

Between mid-2008 and mid-2009, the period during which Jade Goody was diagnosed and died at the age of 27, there were about half a million extra cervical screening attendances in England.

At its peak in March 2009, attendance was 70 per cent higher than expected. Doctors say this increased awareness undoubtedly led to lives being saved.

Furthermore, coverage remained at this higher level in 2009/10. However, the number of women who attend smear test screening has fallen since then

All women aged between 25 and 64 are invited for regular smear tests, which aim to spot abnormalities that could develop into cervical cancer if undetected and left untreated.

Those aged between 25 and 49 should have been screened within the past 3.5 years, while those aged between 50 and 64 should have been screened within the past 5.5 years.

The tests are free on the NHS and usually take less than five minutes to complete. While there was a spike in screening following the death of high-profile media star Jade Goody in 2009, in recent years the rate of women having smear tests has been falling.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “We remain far below the 80 per cent target and have a long way to go.

“Among young women, it remains under two in three booking a potentially life-saving test and big variations across ages demonstrate the need for targeted activities to tackle the different barriers across the life course.

“Funding for national Be Clear on Cancer campaigns has been cut and this is highly frustrating.

“There are areas of the country where under half of the eligible population are being screened and we know the benefits of these campaigns can be significant.”

Across England, 15.2 million women aged between 25 and 64 should have had a smear test done as of 2018/19.

But 4.3 million of these women had not – a rate of 28.1 per cent

While that was a slight improvement from 28.6 per cent the year before, it remains the second-highest rate on modern record.

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter

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