WARRINGTON midwives are being called upon to help to reduce cervical cancer rates.

Around three in 10 people invited for cervical screening, also known as a smear test, do not take up the offer – including in Warrington.

A new initiative is aiming to help maternity staff promote screening with both new mums and mums to be.

The project – funded by Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance – has launched during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, January 22 to January 28, and is designed to give maternity staff the knowledge and confidence to promote screening with women they interact with.

The initiative, designed by NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s Health and Maternity (WHaM) Programme, will also bring in enhanced surveillance of women having antenatal and postnatal care.

It will also promote an education package in maternity units across the region, enabling standardisation of care.

 The pilot project is initially focusing on Warrington, Liverpool and Halton.

Catherine McClennan, programme director at WHaM, said: “We are delighted to roll out this new initiative, with the aim to reduce the number of cervical cancers in our region.

“As cervical screening cannot take place until at least 12 weeks after giving birth, the project equips women, midwives and other relevant health professionals to have informed conversations about screening when it can be carried out again and offer solutions to barriers to screening that people might have.”

Screening helps to prevent cervical cancer by using a highly effective test to check for the human papillomavirus (HPV), found in more than 99 per cent of all cervical cancers and which may cause abnormal cells to develop in the cervix. If left untreated, over time these abnormal cells can turn into cancer.

Cervical screening is for women and people with a cervix and is offered every three years from age 25 to 49 and every five years from age 50 to 64.

The NHS has pledged to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040 by making it as easy as possible for people to get the HPV vaccination – offered to females and males in year 8 of school but which can be administered up to the age of 25 for those eligible who have missed it – and increasing cervical screening uptake.

Jo Hunt, lead midwife for health inequalities at WHaM, said: “NHS cervical screening helps to prevent cervical cancer, saving thousands of lives each year. In England, cervical screening currently prevents 70 per cent of cervical cancer deaths.

“If everyone attended screening regularly, 83 per cent could be prevented. This project has the potential to reach over 27,000 women per year when fully rolled out across our region.”

Steve Jones, programme manager at Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, said: “This is a fantastic initiative to reach women in a very personal and individual way to promote cervical screening.

“While women have their cervical screening postponed during pregnancy and for three months after giving birth, it is important to attend their appointment soon after.

“A new baby is a very busy time for the whole family, especially the mum, and a screening appointment can be easily overlooked, so we are hoping that maternity staff will be empowered to impress on women that it is vital to go for a smear test when invited.

"Screening can catch cancer before it develops and can save your life.”

More information on the can be found at The Cancer Academy: https://www.canceracademy.nhs.uk/

For more on cervical screening and why it is important, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/