Updated: Smear Testing Reinstated

A post on a GP’s Facebook page has said that smear tests can continue in general practice.

Ramsey Group Practice has said: ‘We are pleased to announce we have just had word from Head of Primary Care that cervical screening can continue in general practice. We cancelled all our patients on Friday but we will contact you all again from Monday onwards.’

A petition calling for the reintroduction of smear tests on the island had gained just under 2,500 signatures since it was started on Friday.

Smear tests were suspended during the current lockdown, despite a commitment by the Health Minister in Friday’s Covid briefing that cancer screenings would continue.

In a press release on Friday night, the gov said it was suspending ‘non-urgent care interventions such as cervical smears and minor operations’. 

However, people disagreed with this decision, with many pointing out how the tests play a vital role in the early detection of cancer and other illnesses.

The petition said: ‘It has been announced that during the Covid lockdown #3, smear tests on the Isle of Man will be “temporarily suspended”. Cervical cancer very often shows no symptoms until in the very late stages, a cervical smear test is the only way to know whether a lady has precancerous/cancerous cells. 
‘If caught very early with a smear test, the survival rate for cervical cancer is almost 95%, if left until it reaches later stages, it drops to as low as 57%. Please support this petition, Mr Ashford confirmed all cancer screening would be continuing, yet they have cancelled a vital service for women of the island.’

As well as residents, Tynwald members have also been questioning the wisdom of this decision. Tanya August-Hanson said on Twitter: ‘Can’t for the life of me understand why it would be stopped – you’re right, we should be encouraging women to go for smears despite COVID, not shutting them out of a vital service.’

Gef has contacted the DHSC for a comment.

However, while the department has not yet provided clarity as to its decision, a post on Ramsey Group Practices Facebook page said: ‘These services are vital however the reason for them being cancelled is the length of time that the patient needs to be in the consultation room. Anything longer than 15 minutes where the patient and the clinician are having to be extremely close to each other and is classed as “an invasive procedure” is deemed a potential risk for both the patient and the clinician (in a GP setting) during a pandemic.’

The petition can be found here.