North Devon District Hospital (NDDH) will be launching a new drop-in cervical screening service in the new year in a bid to boost the number of women taking the important test.

Women will be 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 from January 7.

When they get their screening invitation they can now choose to book an appointment with a GP or attend the drop in session.

Women aged between 25 and 50 years old are sent their screening invitation every three years, and every five years for women between the ages of 50 and 64.

Nurse consultant Dawn Goffey is urging women to come along if they are due for their screening.

"We have set up this drop-in service to give women more flexibility and easy access to get this important test done," she said.

"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 new 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 screening, figures from Public Health England released in March 2019 revealed uptake was at a 20-year low, with one in four eligible women in the UK not attending their screening.

Around 2,600 women in England are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and around 690 women die from the disease. It is estimated 83 per cent of cervical cancer cases could be prevented if everyone was screened regularly.

Louise Errol, Petter Day Unit manager at NDDH, said: "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?"