Health minister need to “better explain the reasons” behind change to cervical screening, says Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru have called on Wales’ health minister to contact everyone affected by recent increase to cervical screening intervals to better explain the reasons behind the change.
At the start of this month Cervical Screening Wales (CSW) extended the routine screening for 25 and 49 year olds from three to five years – if human papillomavirus is not found in their cervical screening test.
In Wales smear tests, had been routinely offered to women and people with a cervix in the age group every three years.
Public Health Wales say the change “is as a result of the current screening being more accurate than the previous screening test” and brings the advice for this age group in line with the screening interval for those aged 50 to 64.
However the change has faced a backlash from the public and opposition parties, with hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition urging the Welsh government and Public Health Wales to rethink the decision.
On Thursday (6 January 2022) Plaid Cymru spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS wrote to Health Minister Eluned Morgan to ask her contact everyone affected by the recent increase to cervical screening intervals to better explain the reasons behind the change.
In his letter, Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “I am writing about the communication of the recent change to the arrangements for cervical cancer screening. I was disappointed to read about the change at first, but having done my own research, and having received a note of explanation from Cancer Research UK stating that they support the new regime, I am satisfied that this is a sensible, evidence-based step.
“However, many thousands of people are now concerned about this, and I think that is based on a failure to communicate clearly the reason for the change.
“I am aware that Public Health Wales has apologised for the lack of clarity, but I would like you to consider again how to contact people in Wales urgently to allay their fears, and indeed to explain why developments in our understanding of how best to screen for HPV can positively influence the frequency of screening.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “Many thousands of people in Wales are concerned about the recent changes to cervical screening – a move that has taken many by surprise, and which was accompanied by a surprising lack of detail.
“Having reviewed the evidence, and having received further information from Cancer Research UK, I’m satisfied that this is an evidence-based change, due to improved understanding of the relationship between screening, the HPV vaccine and the risk of cancer.
“But this must be explained clearly and directly, and that is why I have written to the Health Minister to ask her to contact everyone in Wales affected by these changes – as a matter of urgency – to better explain the reasons behind the change in screening strategy.”
Last week Public Health Wales and the Welsh government moved to reassure the public about the change, which has been recommended by the UK National Screening Committee in 2019.
Since 2008 girls aged 12 or 13 have been offered the HPV vaccine across the UK to help protect against cervical cancer.
Research has shown that the vaccine has led to about a 90 per cent reduction in the number of people with pre-cancerous cells.
Louise Dunk, Head of Programme for Cervical Screening Wales at Public Health Wales said: “Testing everyone who attends for cervical screening using a test for high risk HPV will identify those at risk and prevent more cancers than just examining the cells alone.
“It is a really positive development that this more effective test will mean that people with a cervix, who test negative for HPV, now only need to attend their testing every five years, rather than three.
“Going for your screening appointment could save your life. By making an appointment you have the chance to prevent cervical cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage when it is more treatable.”
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “I would like to reiterate that the change has been made because the current screening is more accurate than previous testing and, therefore, less frequent screening is required for those who do not have HPV.
“Those who are identified as having HPV will be followed up closely, either by being referred for further review at a hospital colposcopy clinic or by invitation for a further test in a year’s time if there were no cell changes present in their sample.
“The change to the screening interval has been made in line with the independent, expert advice of the UK National Screening Committee, which made the recommendation for the interval change in February 2019 after undertaking a public consultation.
“This is therefore the current evidence-based recommendation at a UK level. It was implemented in Scotland in March 2020.
“The change is now being made in Wales as the evidence has shown it is safe to extend the screening interval due to the improved test.” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com