Local Primary Care GP Federation, which represents and supports all GP practices in Blackburn with Darwen has won a national award for their work to improve and increase cervical screening (smear test) attendance.
Their initiative has been awarded the top prize for equality, inclusion and diversity by national charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust in their annual Cervical Screening Awards.
In 2017 the GP Federation and NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group launched a major campaign to protect women against cervical cancer. This was because the numbers of women having a cervical smear to detect cervical cancer early was lower across Blackburn with Darwen than in other areas, particularly in the Asian community. The lower the cervical screening numbers, the less chance for early detection of cervical cancer, and the greater the risk of women having the disease.
The GPs learned that women don’t attend for their smear due to fear, embarrassment and in some cases, shame. Other women considered themselves as low risk or did not understand what cervical screening is. Some women wanted to attend screening but they struggled to find time to do so.
To help improve awareness and encourage more women to have a cervical smear, the GP Federation ran a campaign across the four neighbourhoods of Blackburn with Darwen (North, West, East and Darwen) to encourage and make it easier for women aged between 25 and 64 to book an appointment and attend their smear. All GP practices in Blackburn with Darwen took part in the campaign, and the GP Federation teamed up with the GP Practice Patient Participation Groups and the Awaaz Women’s Group who helped promote awareness using promotional material from Jo’s Trust.
As well as an awareness campaign, the GP Federation and the CCG invested in additional cervical smear clinics each weekend on Saturdays and Sundays. The clinics are run by female GP practice nurses and can be booked through any of the GP practices across Blackburn with Darwen. The nursing team invited those who hadn’t attended appointments by letter, text message, and telephone calls as well as through online booking and increased awareness through social media The Darwen primary care neighbourhood developed and promoted a patient leaflet that explained the reasons why it is important for women to have a smear test which included the real story of a daughter who lost her mother to the disease. This was shared across the neighbourhoods in all of the GP practices.
The concerted effort by the GP Federation, GP practices and partners, has made a huge difference with more women booking and attending appointments for cervical smears across all four neighbourhoods. This means that more women are having cervical smears, and as a result either ruling out cervical cancer, or if detected early, improving their chances of survival by having quick and effective treatment as a result of early detection.
North Blackburn Primary Care Neighbourhood had one of the lowest uptakes for cervical smear screening however the project has resulted in improved screening uptake increased in all six GP practices in the neighbourhood. Two of the six GP surgeries have already increased screening uptake by the 3 per cent target set for June 2020, with a further one increasing it by 2.9 per cent.
Dr Mohammed Umer, Darwen GP, Chair of Local Primary Care Federation and Clinical Director Blackburn with Darwen Primary Care Networks said:
“I am incredibly proud and delighted that we won this award. When I say “we” won this award, I mean everyone who was involved – the GPs, AWAAZ, Patient Groups, BwD Council, and the CCG – it was a real team effort and it has paid off. We are not resting on our laurels though, there is more to do and we will continue to raise awareness of the importance for every woman to have a regular cervical smear check.”
Councillor Jackie Floyd and assistant executive member for public health and wellbeing said:
“I am delighted to see we have made an impact and more women are now going to their screening, which will help to save lives. It’s nice to see it recognised at a national level. It was a really big community effort and shows the value of effective engagement, getting out and talking to people face to face, and effective partnership.
We’ve worked very closely with the community cancer champions as they know their neighbourhoods the best. The professionals gave them accurate information but have very much followed a ‘hands off’ approach and helped them to spread the information and key messages of the campaigns around their neighbourhoods in their own way using whatever tactics they feel will have the best impact”.
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said:
“I would like to personally congratulate Local Primary Care GP Federation for their commitment, their excellent work and I hope that their work encourages others to invest in prevention campaigns. These forward-thinking initiatives provide excellent examples of what can be done locally to increase low screening uptake. Cervical screening provides the best protection against cervical cancer and it is only through concerted local action such as those demonstrated by our winners that we are going to see attendance continue to increase. It is vital that we share and learn about successful local efforts to encourage good practice to be carried out across the UK.”