ALTERNATIVE ways to encourage women to attend cervical screening appointments are being explored by the NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.

New research from University College London suggests more than 25 per cent of women who do not get the screening are unaware the test exists.

It also said TV, radio and social media, or community outreach, might be more effective to reach these women who tend to be younger, from poorer families or non-native English speakers, than the current method of inviting women to attend.

Riverside Health Centre, in Manningtree, has been working hard to increase their cervical screening uptake.

Practice manager, Mel Lodge, said: “We tend to opportunistically talk to patients where an alert is seen that cervical cytology is outstanding, and our nurses call more anxious patients to encourage them to attend or explore their anxieties about the procedure.

“We also have posters in our waiting rooms and clinical rooms.

“87 per cent of our eligible women have been adequately assessed by cervical screening which is 14 per cent above the national average, but we cannot become complacent as national levels drop.”

NHS England has launched its Females of the Future social media campaign to empower and motivate 25 to 29-year-olds to attend their appointments.

Cervical screening, formerly known as the smear test, takes about three minutes and involves a sample of cells being taken from the cervix to check for anything out of the ordinary.

Regular screening helps to identify any abnormal changes at an early stage so they can be treated, if necessary, to stop cancer developing.

Since the cervical screening programme was implemented in the 1980s, cases of cervical cancer have decreased nationally by around 7 per cent annually.