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College Chair defends GPs over cervical screening accusations

The full version is below.

Dear Sir,

Blaming GPs for the recent drop in take-up of smear tests – and, worse still, for the unnecessary and untimely deaths of women – is grossly unfair, and blatant scaremongering that will only serve to deter yet more women from getting tested. (Almost half of women delay cervical cancer screenings as they can't get appointment, April 15, page 8, and Comment, page 16, 'Dying to see a doctor').

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.

The NHS screening letter gives women a number of options where they can have the test done. If they do choose their 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.

Cervical screening really can save lives and we encourage all eligible women to take up the invitation to be screened. When you do try to book, please have a range of dates and times available to make booking easier at the first attempt.

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 frontline as matter of urgency so that we can give all our patients the care they deserve.

@rcgp

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