Great Britain

Women are facing a 10-week delay to receive results of their smear tests

Women in some parts of the UK are facing an "anxious" 10-week delay to receive the results of their smear tests; they are normally expected within two weeks.

Thousands of women in the West Midlands are thought to be affected by a backlog which has built up since Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust took over the service for Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham, Coventry and Gloucester in April 2019.

The trust has confirmed it is aiming to meet the national target of two weeks by the end of February.

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A spokesperson for the trust added that it is “aware of the impact of the delays” and is working closely with NHS England to make “good progress”.

Paris Jones, a midwife from Birmingham, told the BBC she had to wait 10 weeks before receiving her smear test results which showed abnormalities and described the delay as “stressful”.

Following a colposcopy, the 25-year-old was told she had pre-cancerous cells and had them removed in a procedure in January.

“Most people think if you haven’t heard anything it is normally fine, but I think if you were to wait 12 weeks to then find out something was wrong you would be a bit irritated,” Jones said.

Tracie Miles, specialist nurse for gynaecological cancer research charity The Eve Appeal, said the delay was unlikely to have a lasting impact on cancer screening services.

“On balance, the biggest thing is anxiety, it may cause a women to put off her next test and think ‘I don’t want to go next time, it is too worrying’,” she said.

NHS England added that a number of local areas are “working hard to minimise any delays to results”, which it said are “expected to be back on track shortly”.

Last month, the Department of Health announced that it is currently developing at-home smear tests.

During a discussion in the House of Commons, Jo Churchill, health minister, said the government is committed to improving access to cervical cancer screenings for all women and confirmed that a kit which will allow women to complete the tests themselves is in progress. 

“No woman should be denied access to vital screening,” Churchill said.

“We are actually working on the area of cervical screening on a home kit which should help in time.

”Nobody should be denied, we are committed to improving access for all women.”

According to the NHS, cervical cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages. 

However, some of the most common symptoms can include abnormal vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or new bleeding after you have been through the menopause.

Other symptoms of cervical cancer may include pain and discomfort during sex, unusual or unpleasant vaginal discharge, and pain in your lower back or pelvis.

While vaginal bleeding is common and can have a wide range of causes, the NHS adds that it should be investigated by your GP.

Read our step-by-step guide to what happens during a smear test here.

You can contact the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust free helpline on 0808 802 8000. Click here to check the helpline opening times.