The Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, has written to the Daily Mail after an article published last week suggested GP waiting times are partly to blame for the drop in the number of women having cervical screening tests. The article was based on findings of a survey of 2,037 women carried out by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. It found 43 per cent of women had been forced to delay their test at least once because they could not get an appointment.
In the letter, Professor Stokes-Lampard said blaming GPs for the recent drop in take-up of smear tests "is grossly unfair" and that such "blatant scaremongering" will only serve to deter yet more women from getting tested.
“We understand that it can be difficult to get an appointment with a nurse or GP, but we have a severe shortage of family doctors and practice nurses in some areas and the dedicated staff we do have are going above and beyond to provide safe patient care to rising numbers of patients,” she said.
The letter points out that the NHS screening invitation gives women a number of options where they can have the test done. If they choose to attend a GP practice, it is not usually necessary to wait for a GP appointment as most practices offer cervical screening clinics with practice nurses at a range of times, it adds.
“General practice and community sexual health services have borne the brunt of years of under-investment, and the promises of funding in the NHS Long-Term Plan must be ploughed into the front line as a matter of urgency so that we can give all our patients the care they deserve,” Professor Stokes-Lampard says.