Millions miss out on life-saving cervical cancer checks as NHS 'loses grip' on smear tests

HEALTH bosses are “losing grip” of cancer screening – with millions missing out, claim MPs.

They warn the numbers of women getting life-saving cervical checks has fallen to a 21-year low.

Only one in 207 local areas managed to hit screening targets – with at least 80 per cent of eligible people being seen.

More than four in ten women – 1.27 million – waited longer than the two-week standard to get their results last year.

Officials claim the target was “a customer service ambition” and made no difference to patient outcome.

In a damning report, the Public Accounts Committee warned health leaders had no clue how to fix the “alarming” problems.

MPs said none of the three key cancer screening programmes – bowel, breast or cervical – had met their targets.

And warned “woeful” IT meant only some women were invited for crucial breast checks – with problems dating back to 2011.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “The benefits of screening cannot be under-estimated: if found at an early stage, treatment can be significantly more effective.

Yet millions of people are not being screened for serious illnesses like bowel, breast and cervical cancer.

“Our inquiry has exposed a health service that is losing its grip on health screening programmes.

“Many individuals waiting for delayed results will suffer avoidable anxiety, stress and uncertainty.”

She called on the Department of Health and NHS England to set out a clear plan of action to improve screening.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: “We are currently in a situation where even the lowest targets for uptake are not being met, there is a clear lack of governance and aspects such as the IT infrastructure behind the programme, which have been called not fit for purpose for many years, are still in use.

“It is appalling that this is the case.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “11 million people benefit from the NHS’ world class screening programmes every year, and record numbers of people are receiving lifesaving NHS treatment.

“Although we await further recommendations from the Sir Mike Richards Review of national screening programmes, we are pushing ahead with important changes to help detect as many cancers as early as possible.”

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