Summary of report content
Healthwatch Wolverhampton undertook research into the views of women about cervical screening and the barriers to attending screening appointments. They undertook a survey and a focus group. Altogether they spoke to 184 women.
The research found that it is not always clear to people what the purpose is of cervical screening with some respondents seeing it as being a check for sexually transmitted infections or for problems with the womb rather than for pre-cancerous cells in the cervix.
Whilst around half of the survey respondents said that they had never delayed attending a cervical screening appointment, there was a high percentage of respondents who had delayed their appointment. The most frequently cited reason was because they found the process embarrassing. Relatively high percentages also said that they were self-conscious about how their body looked or did not want to undress in front of strangers. The gender of the person carrying out the procedure was also identified as a barrier by focus group attendees, as were cultural concerns relating to the propriety of being examined by male practitioners in particular.
The convenience of being able to book appointments for screening was a reason for delay for some participants and survey respondents were asked about the times and locations that would be most convenient for them to attend. Having appointment available in the mornings and evenings between Monday and Friday and on Saturday mornings were a preference and being able to attend their own GP practice was a preference for the highest number of respondents.
When asked what would encourage them to attend cervical screening appointments as well as having access to flexible appointments, respondents to the survey and the focus group participants felt that having more information from different sources such as the media, or through peer to peer support could help to overcome the barriers to attending.
The relationship between the HPV vaccine and cervical screening was unclear as was the eligibility for the vaccine and the vaccination programme. This may have been due to the age groups that took part in the project and them not having been in the target groups for the vaccination.
There were six recommendations about appointments, cultural barriers to screening, peer support; information about screening, the right to ask for a specific practitioner, and information about HPV vaccine.