Research Article

How district health authorities organise cervical screening.

BMJ 1990; 301 doi: (Published 20 October 1990) Cite this as: BMJ 1990;301:915
  1. A Elkind,
  2. A Eardley,
  3. R Thompson,
  4. A Smith
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Social Oncology, Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute, Manchester.


    OBJECTIVES--To examine how district health authorities organised cervical screening with respect to Department of Health guidelines and to determine their assessment of the problems encountered. DESIGN--Postal questionnaire sent to all 190 district health authorities in England in 1989. PARTICIPANTS--190 District health authorities in England. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Population coverage of screening, quality of smear testing, and follow up of abdominal test results in comparison with national guidelines for district cervical screening services, and problems encountered by districts. RESULTS--Replies were received from 178 (94%) of districts, in 143 of which the person named as responsible for cervical screening contributed. All districts implemented a computer managed scheme, 150 by the target date of 31 March 1988, but not all of these conformed with the guidelines. At the time of the survey only just over half called women in the target age group of 20-64 and only 70% expected to meet the target date of 13 March 1993 for completing the call. Considerable variation was evident among the schemes with regard to how they dealt with issues related to population coverage, quality of testing, and follow up of abnormal results. The problems most commonly identified by the districts (n = 174) were laboratory workload (107, 61%), computer software (104, 60%), availability of resources (78, 45%), non-attendance (77, 44%), rate of opportunistic screening (62, 36%), and investigation and treatment (60, 34%). CONCLUSIONS--Current practice in running cervical screening schemes needs to be examined to determine the extent to which it contributes to the goal of reducing mortality from cervical cancer.