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Cervical Cancer Screening


NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

Scottish Cervical Screening Programme

Cervical screening was introduced in Scotland in the 1960s. Although large numbers of women were offered tests, the service at this time was not introduced as a population based programme. The national cervical screening programme was introduced in Scotland in 1988 with the aim of reducing the incidence of invasive cancer of the cervix.

From Monday, June 6 2016, the age range for cervical screening changed from ages 20-60 years, to ages 25-64 years plus 364 days. The frequency of cervical screening continued to be every three years from age 25 to age 49, but changed to be every five years for women from age 50 to 64 plus 364 days of age. Women on non-routine screening (where screening results have shown changes that require further investigation/follow up) are now invited up to age 70 years plus 364 days of age (a change from previous arrangements up to age 68). Women under the age of 25 who had already been invited for a test as part of the screening programme continue to be invited for screening, regardless of whether her recall date was before or after she had reached 25 years and regardless of whether she had attended for screening or not. The latest publication has been revised to reflect these changes.

The publication includes statistics on uptake by age group, NHS Board, deprivation, Human papilloma virus (HPV) immunisation status, laboratory turnaround times, number of cervical screening tests and results of tests by NHS Board and laboratory. Uptake statistics by deprivation and HPV immunisation status are being published for the first time.

Cervical screening is used to identify cell changes which could develop to become malignant, in women who otherwise have no symptoms; at this stage, any changes can be easily treated, and treatment is usually very effective.

In May 2007, following a review of local call recall arrangements in Scotland, a new national IT system, the Scottish Cervical Call Recall System (SCCRS), was introduced across NHS Scotland.

The report from the most recent National Statistics publication can be found on our Publications page.

Scottish HPV Immunisation Programme

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is designed to protect against types of HPV that cause around 70% of the cases of cervical cancer in Scotland. The vaccine does not protect against all cervical cancers, so regular cervical screening is still important. The HPV Immunisation Programme in Scotland started on 1st September 2008. Further information, including uptake statistics, are available on our Immunisation page.

HPV vaccine and cervical cancer in Scotland

The figure below shows the number of new cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women for those aged 20-24 in Scotland between 1991 and 2015. It addresses the question of whether the introduction of HPV vaccine in 2008 has so far made any difference to the risk of cervical cancer in this age group, which is expected to be among the first to benefit. However the number of cases of cervical cancer in this age group in Scotland (under 15 annually during this period) is too small to draw any reliable conclusions from the data so far. There is as yet no clear indication of any change in rates following introduction of the vaccine. The shaded area shows pointwise confidence intervals around crude rates, indicating the wide degree of uncertainty. Continuing monitoring of cervical cancer rates is important to assess the impact of the vaccine. Previously published information about rates of cervical dysplasia provides an earlier indication of the impact of HPV and suggests that rates of dysplasia may be falling. Cervical dysplasia is an important risk factor for cervical cancer and these declines provide some indication that cervical cancer rates are likely to fall in due course.

Chart 1


Scottish Cervical Screening Programme Statistics Publication

ISD plan to carry out a consultation during 2017 for users to provide comments on the Scottish Cervical Screening Programme statistics. The consultation will be made available on this page.

Key facts

At 31st March 2017

  • The percentage of eligible women (aged 25 to 64) who were recorded as screened adequately within the specified period was 73.4%.
  • Uptake was higher in areas of lower deprivation. Uptake for women aged 25 to 64 in the least deprived areas was 78.3% compared with 67.4% in the most deprived areas.
  • Cervical screening uptake is highest in HPV vaccinated women across ages 21-25 when compared to non-vaccinated women. This may be partly due to immunised women being more aware of the risks involved following the education received during the immunisation programme.

In 2016-2017:

  • In 2016-17, 417,267 cervical screening tests were processed, an increase of 4.5% compared to 2015-16. Of all tests processed, 97.2% were of satisfactory quality i.e. there were enough cells in the sample
  • Of the satisfactory quality tests, 91.5% had a negative (normal) result, 7.5% had a low grade cell change and the remaining 1.0% had high grade cell changes.

Tables and charts

Annual data:

Quarterly data:

Historical data: to 31st March 2007

Cervical cancer incidence and mortality Download Excel file [120KB] trends in incidence rates (all ages combined), and by age group and stage of disease; and trends in mortality rates (all ages combined)

Cervical screening links

Cervical cancer statistics : detailed incidence and mortality data, lifetime risk, prevalence and survival statistics.

NHS Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP) : general information and publications relating to cervical screening in the UK.

Cervical Screening - National Overview (November 2003) Download PDF file [484KB]: report produced by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland.

National Services Division (NSD) , which has responsibility for providing the Scottish Cervical Screening Programme.

Scottish Cervical Call Recall System (SCCRS)

Information about cervical Screening

Cervical Screening information available here : leaflets produced by Health Scotland

Cervical Screening Data Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions relating to the cervical screening programme are available here Download PDF file [15KB]


Glossary of Cervical Screening terms relating to the data on this websiteDownload PDF file [34KB]

Details of data sources

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