HL Deb 03 May 1989 vol 507 cc247-8WA
The Countess of Mar

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to extend cervical cytology laboratories and increase the number of qualified staff to enable the service to cope with any increases in demand when general practitioners are expected to meet specific cervical smear targets.

Lord Henley

In January 1988 we asked health authorities in England to introduce a number of improvements to their cervical cancer screening programmes. We stressed the importance of ensuring that all women aged between 20 and 64 years should have the opportunity and be encouraged to be screened. Similar arrangements apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, although some aspects of their programmes differ slightly from those in England. To encourage general practitioners to achieve higher levels of cover we have proposed a package, which is currently under discussion with the profession, to replace by target payments the item-of-service payment for cervical cancer screening. Such payments will be made for achieving or helping to achieve (for example with the family planning clinic) cover of 80 per cent. of the relevant practice population.

Health authorities are responsible for organising local cervical cancer screening services—including laboratory services—and any increase in laboratory staff will be a matter for local decision. As at March 1989 (the latest information available) over 85 per cent. of health authority laboratories in England were meeting our target time of four weeks in which to return the result of a smear to a doctor responsible for taking it.