Case study

GP surgery initiatives boost cervical screening uptake

Innovative ‘In the Pink’ surgery campaign increases awareness of cervical screening and encourages patients to attend

Surgery poster with cervical screening reminder


In order to raise awareness of cervical screening and encourage patients to attend, St Mary’s surgery delivered an innovative, multi-faceted campaign running over a 4 week period.

What was involved

Many patients at St Mary’s surgery, based near the Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton, speak English as a second language and a large percentage live in the most deprived areas in the city, presenting potential barriers to women taking up their screening invitation.

Communicating the message is the first barrier as patients who do not speak English have difficulty understanding invitation letters, and are often not able to read in their own language. Overcoming cultural barriers to gynaecological examination can also be difficult. This has resulted in the need for the surgery to use innovative and original methods of recall in an attempt to maintain uptake.

In 2016 cervical screening uptake had fallen to 59.5%. Our objective was to increase general awareness of cervical screening and increase uptake for women in the mixed ethnicity community and in the most deprived areas of our practice area.

As part of its 4 week campaign, the surgery sent weekly reminders to women who were overdue their cervical screening, individually called patients to explain the importance of the test and broadcast interviews in a variety of languages on a local community radio station.

In-surgery promotion included posters and looped messages on a display screen. Opportunistic smear appointment slots were made available every day to book patients in for a test even if they had come to the surgery for something else. Daily reminders flashed up on everyone’s desktop computers to remind staff to use these appointments and actively encourage women to book in on the day if they were due a smear.

During the 4 weeks of the campaign we booked 487 appointments and undertook 263 cervical screens. Uptake increased from 59.5% to 64.2%, a significant 7.9% increase in uptake. This has now risen to an over 11% increase since the start of the campaign. 60% of the practice population live in the most deprived areas of the city and at the end of the campaign the greatest gains were achieved within the more deprived areas.

What works well

By increasing the availability of appointments both in hours and outside normal working hours in light of feedback from patients, the Surgery was able to offer a greater range of opportunistic tests.

The enthusiasm of the whole practice team in tackling the range of work undertaken was key to its success. The very visual ‘In the Pink’ campaign helped maintain the focus of the initiative.

Next steps

Work continues to address the issues faced in this local demographic to improve uptake and to engage patients including targeted events in the local community.

Further information


Published 30 August 2017