16 July 2018
Cervical screening will be provided free by Jersey GPs from 1 August.
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, and the Minister for Social Security, Deputy Judy Martin recently gave their backing to the free provision of cervical screening, which was an initiative started by the previous Health Minister, Senator Andrew Green.
The fee was removed at Le Bas Centre, the Island’s community contraception and well woman clinic, on 1 June, with the promise of negotiating a contract by the end of the year to allow women to also receive free smear tests at their GP practice.
Dr Caroline Mair, GP at the Island Medical Centre, said: “It’s great that we’ve been able to work swiftly with colleagues in government to remove the cost barrier for women. Providing a free service empowers women to have their smear test when it’s due, without having to worry about the cost.”
Dr Linda Diggle, Head of Preventive Programmes, said: “Two-thirds of women in Jersey regularly have a smear test, and these tests save lives. Nine out of 10 women will get a normal result but in a small number of women, follow-up treatment is needed to reduce their chances of cancer developing. If you are aged 25 to 49, attend every three years for a smear test; if you are aged 50-64, attend every five years."
Deputy Martin said: “Attending a cervical screening appointment is important for women and cost shouldn’t be a barrier to this. I am very pleased that I have been able to provide funding from the Health Insurance Fund and that by working with both the Health Department and GP colleagues, we have been able to bring about this important change.”
Deputy Renouf added: “The move towards free screening has been a very positive one – after starting to provide free tests at Le Bas in June, it’s excellent to be ‘squaring the circle’ by also including GP practices.”
About cervical screening
Cervical cancer is avoidable if women attend screening. In Jersey, one or two women a year die of cervical cancer. UK statistics show that cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35.
75% of all smears are performed at GP surgeries. Previously, the fees charged by GPs had varied between surgeries and could cost as much as £62.
Around 66% of women in Jersey attend for screening. Over the last 18 months women have campaigned for the cost to be removed to encourage more to attend for a potentially life-saving test.
In line with the UK National Screening Committee recommendations, screening is available for women from the age of 25 to 64 at the following intervals:
- women aged 25 to 49 every three years
- women aged 50 to 64 every five years
Cervical screening is not performed in younger women as screening women under the age of 25 can do more harm than good.
Cervical screening prevents cervical cancer because it can detect abnormal cells before they have a chance to turn cancerous. The abnormal cells can then be treated so that cancer is prevented.
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It's estimated that it takes between 10 and 20 years for HPV infection to develop into abnormal cervical cells, and then into cervical cancer.
Cervical screening routinely stops at the age of 64 as it is highly unlikely that women over 64 who have been regularly screened will go on to develop the disease.
The Health and Community Services Department pays for the testing kits, the laboratory processing of each test (via the contracted NHS Cytology Laboratory), and for administration of the recall system. The Health Insurance Fund will meet the cost of the new contract with GPs.