During his first week back in Parliament following re-election as the MP for the City of Chester, Chris Matheson and Lucy Jones, local cancer campaigner, took a step forward in their fight for better access to cervical screening tests across the UK.
Alongside representatives from the Smear on Demand campaign, Chris and Lucy held a detailed meeting with senior officials of Public Health England.
The meeting was a positive advancement in the campaign, with senior officials recognising the need for a more accessible route to cervical cancer screening and agreeing to support this change in discussions with the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Chris said: “The meeting provided greater clarity to officials about the specific problems preventing young women from accessing cervical screening and diagnosis. Senior officials recognised that the current screening rules allow women to fall through the cracks, failing to receive diagnosis when they carry clear warning symptoms.
“Officials agreed that the NHS need to establish a clear alternative diagnostic route to smear testing that ensures all women presenting with symptoms are automatically provided with a route to screening, where they are currently denied smear tests because they do not fit the criteria for a smear test.
“Screening is the single most effective way to stop cervical cancer in its tracks and prevent the tragic and preventable death of women”.
The Smear on Demand campaign was launched as a result of women being denied cervical smear tests due to them being under 25 or between routine smear test dates. In some cases, women died from undiagnosed cervical cancer and representatives of some of these families also attended the meeting with Chris and Lucy.
Chris said: “This is about changing the attitudes of GPs and the guidance they receive. When GPs see women suffering with cervical cancer symptoms, concerns should be taken seriously every time.
“A different diagnostic route needs to be made available to medical professionals for women who present with these symptoms.”
In the New Year, Chris and Lucy hope to meet representatives from the Royal College of General Practitioners to call for further change on this issue.
Chris said: “We still have a fight on our hands, but this meeting allowed our campaign to reach the decision-makers in Public Health England. For the next part of our campaign Lucy and I look forward to communication with the Royal College of General Practitioners to find practical and tangible solutions to this issue.”