NHS Digital has suggested that GPs and health organisations could improve screening rates for cervical cancer by making better use of a digital tool it launched a year ago.
The organisation launched an online dashboard in July 2017 that displays information on local screening levels according to local authority, GP practice and clinical commissioning group (CCG).
The tool offers detailed data that is updated on a quarterly basis to allow healthcare organisations to see where efforts to improve screening rates should be focused.
Despite the data being put to use by a number of CCGs, NHS Digital has now urged more providers and commissioners to do the same to help reverse an ongoing decline in cervical screening rates.
Public Health England (PHE) and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust worked alongside NHS Digital to develop the dashboard.
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Cervical screening attendance is in decline and it is only through concerted and collaborative action that we are going to see this trend reverse.
“There is some fantastic and innovative work being undertaken across the country to increase awareness and attendance of the test and it is important that we recognise and celebrate this.
“Being able to access up-to-date data is vital to understanding where to focus efforts, measure impact of activity and flag where support might be needed so I would encourage everyone involved in increasing attendance to make use of the data dashboard.”
NHS Digital highlighted use cases in which the dashboard had been leveraged to raise awareness amongst women.
Merton CCG, for example, has used the data to understand coverage rates and work with GP practices to encourage women to undergo screening.
The CCG also worked in collaboration with the Merton Cancer Task Group to further raise awareness.
Dr Shweta Singh, Merton Macmillan GP and Merton CCG lead on cancer, said: “We have worked in collaboration with our local GP practices to make the best use of this data on the dashboard.
“We are aware that screening levels could be better and are soon launching extra screening clinics to reach more women. It is so important that women take these tests as the earlier we can detect any changes, the better we can prevent cervical cancer and ultimately save lives.”
According to figures from NHS Digital, cervical screening coverage in England has decreased in each of the last three years.
Professor Anne Mackie, PHE director of screening, called the online dashboard “a welcome initiative to help increase the number of women take up the opportunity for a screen.”
She added: “Cervical screening prevents thousands of cancers so it’s important we do all we can to ensure women are aware and choose to be screened.
“PHE is committed in its role to provide support to NHS England and local authorities to ensure that as many women as possible can take up their offer of screening.”