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Blackburn with Darwen GPs win national cervical cancer screening award

19th February 2020

cervicalcancer.jpgLocal Primary Care GP Federation, which represents and supports all GP practices in Blackburn with Darwen has won a national award for their work to improve and increase cervical screening (smear test) attendance.

Their initiative has been awarded the top prize for equality, inclusion and diversity by national charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust in their annual Cervical Screening Awards.

In 2017 the GP Federation and NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group launched a major campaign to protect women against cervical cancer. This was because the numbers of women having a cervical smear to detect cervical cancer early was lower across Blackburn with Darwen than in other areas, particularly in the Asian community. The lower the cervical screening numbers, the less chance for early detection of cervical cancer, and the greater the risk of women having the disease.

The GPs learned that women don’t attend for their smear due to fear, embarrassment and in some cases, shame. Other women considered themselves as low risk or did not understand what cervical screening is. Some women wanted to attend screening but they struggled to find time to do so.

To help improve awareness and encourage more women to have a cervical smear, the GP Federation ran a campaign across the four neighbourhoods of Blackburn with Darwen (North, West, Central and Darwen) to encourage and make it easier for women aged between 25 and 64 to book an appointment and attend their smear. All GP practices in Blackburn with Darwen took part in the campaign, and the GP Federation teamed up with the GP Practice Patient Participation Groups and the Awaaz Women’s Group who helped promote awareness using promotional material from Jo’s Trust.

As well as an awareness campaign, the GP Federation and the CCG invested in additional cervical smear clinics each weekend on Saturdays and Sundays. The clinics are run by female GP practice nurses and can be booked through any of the GP practices across Blackburn with Darwen. The nursing team invited those who hadn’t attended appointments by letter, text message, and telephone calls as well as through online booking and increased awareness through social media The Darwen primary care neighbourhood developed and promoted a patient leaflet that explained the reasons why it is important for women to have a smear test which included the real story of a daughter who lost her mother to the disease. This was shared across the neighbourhoods in all of the GP practices.

The concerted effort by the GP Federation, GP practices and partners, has made a huge difference with more women booking and attending appointments for cervical smears across all four neighbourhoods. This means that more women are having cervical smears, and as a result either ruling out cervical cancer, or if detected early, improving their chances of survival by having quick and effective treatment as a result of early detection.

North Blackburn Primary Care Neighbourhood had one of the lowest uptakes for cervical smear screening however the project has resulted in improved screening uptake increased in all six GP practices in the neighbourhood. Two of the six GP surgeries have already increased screening uptake by the 3 per cent target set for June 2020, with a further one increasing it by 2.9 per cent.