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Barriers to cervical screening for under-screened individuals

What are we trying to do?

We are aiming to understand experiences during and barriers to cervical screening.  Exploring the views of individuals eligible for screening and key healthcare staff towards self-sampling as alternative screening methods and how this may:


  • address existing barriers to screening, and 
  • impact any changes in screening within primary care service delivery.


Why is this important?

There are clear differences in cervical screening attendance for different groups according to factors such as health, income, ethnicity and age. Previous research looking into barriers to screening for underserved and marginalised groups, has focused on barriers specific to the routine method of healthcare practitioner taken cervical samples (i.e. the “smear” test). 


Many of the barriers to screening link closely to the cervical sampling method of screening and therefore this has been a focus of research in this space. 


Recent developments on the potential use of self-sampling methods for cervical screening, including vaginal and urine sampling provide a potentially less intrusive method. However, research is needed to explore how this may address inequalities in screening uptake for different groups.


How are we doing it?

We are using semi-structured interviews and focus groups with under-screened groups, including younger women and those with health conditions, as well as primary care staff. 


We aim to recruit up to 35 members of the public and between 5-10 health-care professionals across Greater Manchester.


GP practices with the lowest screening levels will be identified by analysing an existing database. Some of these practices will be used to recruit patients for the interviews and staff for the interviews and focus groups.


We will also use the findings to develop a larger scale study that could provide further evidence to inform how screening is done nationally



Research leads


Who are we working with?

We are working with community members within areas of Greater Manchester where uptake is low in order to work together on the research plans, to help us to design appropriate information for study participants. 


We will also work together to analyse, present and write about the findings.


Funding information

This research study is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) School for Primary Care Research, FR5, Project ID: 611. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. 



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More information



Senior Programme Lead


Mike Spence 


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