HC Deb 27 January 1969 vol 776 cc915-6
7. Mrs. Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now extend the provision of cervical cancer smear tests for women under 35 years of age.

Mr. Ennals

I have nothing to add to my reply of 2nd December to the hon. Member.—[Vol. 774, c. 1031–1032.]

Mrs. Knight

Does the Minister realise that I am attempting to clear up some ambiguity? Will not he say clearly whether the reason is a shortage of money or too many people taking advantage of the existing facilities?

Mr. Ennals

The point is that the priority, in terms of danger, is for those who are over the age of 35. I can point out that, where laboratory facilities permit, there is no refusal in respect of those under the age of 35. Many younger women are already being screened at hospital ante-natal and post-natal clinics and local authority clinics, but the greatest danger is for those over the age of 35. We are doing everything we can to encourage people in that age range to come forward for screening.

Dr. John Dunwoody

Can my hon. Friend say what percentage of women aged over 35 were tested last year? Does not he agree that the first priority must be to increase the acceptability of this test to the women who are most at risk?

Mr. Ennals

I agree. The question of acceptability is an extremely important one. We welcome the work being done by women's organisations and, interestingly enough, now, by trade unionists, to make the importance of this known to people of this age range. During the six months ended 30th June, 1968, no fewer than 703,000 women were tested, which was an increase of 12 per cent. over the previous six months. I cannot give a breakdown of the figures, as to how many were over 35 and how many under that age.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

If facilities are being under-used for people over 35, who must have priority, could not the Minister, meanwhile, do something about their use for women under 35 who, by the time they are convinced, may be over 35? Could not fuller use be made of the available facilities in that way?

Mr. Ennals

It is true that some facilities are being under-used. The important thing is to impress upon women over 35, for whom there is the greatest danger, that they should not hesitate to come forward. It is much more important to do that than to make some change in respect of tests for those under 35 years of age.

Mrs. Short

Is it not equally important to extend the facilities for the detection of cancer of the breast? Will my hon. Friend take steps to do this as well?

Mr. Ennals

I will look into the point raised by my hon. Friend.

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