There has probably never been a more critical time to promote cervical screening to your eligible patient base as this week marks the annual Cervical Screening Awareness Week. In the UK, 5 million women are invited for screening every year, but inevitably, with the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, tests have been postponed and cancelled. While low attendance for screening tests has been a growing concern over the past year, the added worry of coronavirus has impacted on the number of women attending. Cervical Screening Awareness Week offers the perfect opportunity for you to reassure patients that they can access testing safely.
In a recent study carried out by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, it was found that 1 in 8 women are concerned about attending appointments for screening at this time, with 13% stating they’d put off going for their test at the moment. Concerns raised included safety, not wanting to put additional strain on the NHS and shielding.
While the way screening is being carried out is likely to have changed in your surgery, the importance of regular testing cannot be forgotten. Cervical Screening Awareness Week offers the ideal opportunity for you to reassure your patients that they can still access appointments safely. A significant percentage of the target demographic for screening will be active on social media, and your practice page is a great way to reach your female patients who may be concerned about booking a test.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has a video and social-media downloads you can use across your social media here and they can be linked to the FAQS to help put women’s minds at rest. Why not use one of their visuals alongside a message to your patients on your Facebook or Twitter page? For example:
- Due a cervical screening test? Your safety is important, so due to COVID-19, the way we carry out tests has changed. Regular appointments are available with our practice nurse so please book your test.
- Cervical screening is important to help with the early detection of any concerns. Don’t miss your appointment; we’ve put in place new procedures to keep you safe.
- COVID-19 has changed many things; cervical cancer isn’t one of them. Don’t miss your cervical screening test. We’ve changed the way testing is carried out to keep you safe when you visit.
- If you’ve missed your cervical screening test during lockdown, we’re offering catch-up appointments. We’re doing things a little differently to keep everyone safe, so don’t forget your face covering when you visit.
Similar messages could be used to send as a text message to anyone who’s due a cervical screening test or anyone who’s missed their test during the lockdown period. Why not send them a quick reminder?
- Your cervical screening test is now due. Due to COVID-19, we’re carrying out tests differently. Call the surgery to book your appointment or find out more.
- Your cervical screening test is now overdue. We’re offering catch-up appointments following new procedures to keep you safe. Call the surgery to book.
You could link these messages to a new page on your website with additional information about how your testing procedures have changed (e.g. the requirement for wearing face coverings and waiting in the car until the appointment time). This could be added to your current page on cervical screening. You could perhaps add a paragraph at the top to reassure patients about how you do it in your practice.
Practice Index have produced a poster displaying information on how cervical screening tests have changed, and promoting their importance. It can be printed out and used on a wall or notice board, or it can be used on your practice Facebook page or website. Download here [PLUS]
Cervical screening tests are vitally important; they can help identify cervical cell changes early and can monitor for any signs of high-risk HPV. If patients postpone or miss their test, this could significantly impact on their long-term health. Now we have procedures in place to carry out testing safely, with COVID-19 in mind, it’s important to reassure your patients that they can still come into the surgery and access screening safely.