Thousands of people across England have failed to show for cancer treatment since the start of the pandemic

Shattered logo of the NHS
Support us and go ad-free

There was a dip in the number of women coming forward for cervical screening after the pandemic hit, new figures show. Just seven in 10 eligible women in England are “adequately screened”, according to a new report from NHS Digital. This is a drop in coverage of 2 percentage points compared with the previous year.

Cancer is going undetected

Many people have raised concerns that cases of all types of cancer have gone undetected due to the effects of the pandemic. The National Audit Office warned that up to 60,000 people across England who would have been expected to start cancer treatment in March 2020 and September 2021 failed to do so.

The new annual report on cervical screening has shown the effect on cervical cancer. Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for regular cervical screening under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme.

This is intended to detect abnormalities within the cervix that could, if undetected and untreated, develop into cervical cancer.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Alarming findings

Some of the findings of the new report, which covers the period 2021/22 for England, include:

  • In 2020/21, 4.59 million people were invited for screening – a 1% decrease on 2019/20, when the figure was 4.63 million.
  • The number of tests carried out also fell – 3.03 million individuals aged 25 to 64 were tested, a decrease of 5.3% compared with the previous year, when 3.2 million were tested.
  • As of March 31 this year, cervical screening coverage was lower in the 25 to 49 age group – it decreased to 68%, from 70.2% in 2020.
  • In the 50 to 64 age group, coverage decreased from 76.1% in 2020 to 74.7% in 2021.
  • Coverage ranged from 45.8% in Kensington and Chelsea in London to 78.4% in Derbyshire.

The report also shows the number of individuals referred for colposcopy, a procedure to look at the cervix. In 2020-21, there were 176,561 referrals to colposcopy, compared with 191,563 in 2019-20.

“Unprecedented strain”

Commenting on the figures, Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said:

A 2% drop in cervical screening coverage is not unexpected given the last year, however it is a worry.

Our health service is under unprecedented strain at the moment and facing a long winter.

We cannot afford to let coverage slip further, it will only lead to even more cancers that could have prevented.

In some areas coverage is lower than one in two and that should be ringing alarm bells.

It came as separate figures also showed that HPV vaccine coverage has improved but is “still not up to pre-pandemic levels”. Disruption to schooling due to the pandemic led to issues with the HPV vaccine programme, which is delivered through schools.

The figures from the UK Health Security Agency show that, in the 2020 to 2021 academic year, HPV vaccine coverage was 76.7% for the first dose in Year 8 girls in England compared with 59.2% in 2019/20 and 88% in 2018/19. Among boys in Year 8, 71% had received their first dose.

Dixon added:

Today’s data shows the impact of yet another interrupted year to the HPV vaccination programme, with great disparity across the country.

Coverage is still far lower than it was before the pandemic, meaning many schoolchildren could fall through the gap and miss out on protection from HPV-related cancers.

Featured image via – Flickr – Garry Knight

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us