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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. In 1978 committees were established by the UK Department of Health and a review was carried out in Scotland resulting in the Strong Report.

The national cervical screening programme was introduced in Scotland in 1988 with the aim of reducing the incidence of invasive cancer of the cervix. For data reported up to the time period 2015/16, cervical screening was offered to eligible women aged 20-60 every three years. Women with an abnormal screening history will continue to be invited for follow-up as appropriate.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced that from 6 June 2016 changes to the age range and frequency of screening offered by the Scottish Cervical Screening Programme will be implemented. Cervical screening is now routinely offered every three years to women aged between 25 and 49 years of age and every 5 years to women aged between 50 and 64. Women on non-routine screening (where screening results have shown changes that require further investigation/follow-up) will be invited up to age 70 years. These changes will be covered in future publications.

Cervical screening can identify cell changes which may develop to be pre-cancerous 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


Review of the Current Scottish Cervical
Screening Programme Statistics Publication

In the August 2014 publication, we advised that we planned to review the content and format of the cervical screening publication with the aim of focussing on patient outcomes rather than laboratory workload statistics. This work is taking longer than anticipated due to technical issues extracting the information. It is still planned to make changes to future publications. If you would like to feedback any suggestions for future publications please contact ISD at

Key facts

At 31st March 2016

  • Of eligible women, 69.2% had been screened in the previous 3.5 years, this is 1.2 percentage points lower than the 31st March 2015 figure (70.4%)
  • Compared to 31st March 2015, uptake rates have decreased slightly in all the boards. All NHS Boards have a lower uptake rate compared to 5 years ago (based on the pre-2006 configuration of Health Boards).

In 2015-2016:

  • 399,150 cervical screening tests were processed within the programme which is a slight increase of 0.4% compared to 2014-15.
  • Of all tests processed, 97.5% were of satisfactory quality. Of satisfactory results, 90.8% had a negative result, 7.9% had a low grade cell change and the remaining 1.2% had high grade cell changes.
  • The quickest laboratory turnaround times for processing cervical screening tests was found in quarter 2 (July to September), when 95% of tests were processed within 22 working days.

Tables and charts

IMPORTANT: The following tables and charts are based on the pre-2006 Health Board configuration (former Argyll & Clyde). Figures for NHS Highland do not include the Argyll & Bute area and figures for NHS Greater Glasgow do not include the Clyde area.

Annual data:

  • Annual uptake data Download Excel file [119KB] up to 31st March 2016 by NHS Board of Residence
  • Annual workload data Download Excel file [104KB] up to 31st March 2016: number of screening tests processed, percentage of unsatisfactory screening tests and results by NHS Laboratory

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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