Responding to the latest cervical cancer screening statistics, which show the number of smear tests in Scotland fell by 45% in a year, from 318,727 in 2019-20 to 174,299 in 2020-21, Martin Whitfield MSP has called for urgent action to improve testing uptake.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has said that the statistics must serve as a catalyst for action. The charity’s view is that the focus should not only be on recovering from the impact of COVID but also looking at how we can improve uptake and what can be done to remove the barriers that exist to accessing screening.

Mr Whitfield supports the charity’s view and has also backed demands for the Scottish Government to develop a proper cancer recovery plan as part of wider efforts to support the NHS to get back on track after the pandemic.

Commenting, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“These alarming figures lay bare the havoc wreaked by the pandemic on wider healthcare services. The drastic fall in screenings will create a ticking time bomb of cancer diagnoses, with delays putting lives at risk.

“Scotland’s health inequalities are already a national scandal, and the stark gap in screening uptake between the best and the worst off makes it clear that once again it is the worst off who are being left behind. As cancer charities are demanding, we need immediate action to close this gap and improve screening rates for the groups currently missing out.

“The Scottish Government urgently needs to come up with a comprehensive cancer recovery plan to ensure health boards get caught up on screenings and people receive the care and support they need.”