A drop-in cervical screening service at North Devon District Hospital (NDDH) has resumed.

Women are able to drop in for a smear test at the hospital’s Petter Day Treatment Unit in the Ladywell Unit on Tuesday evenings between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.

The service gives women more options for getting the quick and important test done.

A number of measures have been introduced to ensure the safety of women coming in for screening.

Women must attend on their own, and are asked to wear a face covering when coming in – a mask will be provided for those attending without one.

Hand sanitiser should be used on arrival and staff will be wearing personal protective equipment. There will also be two waiting areas with social distancing measures in place.

Women aged 25-50 are sent their screening invitation every three years, and every five years for women aged 50-64.

When they get their invitation, women can now choose to book an appointment with their GP or attend the drop-in at NDDH.

Dawn Goffey, nurse consultant in colposcopy at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT), helped to set up the new drop-in service at NDDH and is urging women to come along if they are due for their screening.

She said: “We set up this drop-in service to give women more flexibility and easy access to get this important test done. There is no need to book an appointment – just pop in on a Tuesday evening if that’s the easiest way for you to fit cervical screening into your schedule.

“We hope this service will see more women take up screening and reduce the number of women developing cervical cancer by detecting signs of change before cancer develops.”

Despite the importance of cervical screening, some women are not attending when invited. In March 2019, Public Health England revealed that uptake was at a 20-year low, with 1 in 4 eligible women in the UK not attending their screening.

Reasons for this can include difficulties with fitting an appointment into busy schedules, embarrassment about the examination and not knowing where to get the test.

Louise Errol, Petter Day Unit manager, added: “I’d really like to reassure anyone who is worried about screening that we are experts in women’s health and we’ve seen it all before, so please don’t feel embarrassed when you come to see us – we certainly won’t be.

“Feedback from patients about our team is really positive and we are pleased to hear patients often saying we are professional, kind and caring.

“Cervical screening isn’t a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer. It detects pre-cancerous changes so that those changes can be treated before they become a cancer. If you had a chance to prevent yourself from developing cancer, wouldn’t you take it?”