Cervical screening: support for people who find it hard to attend

Guidance to support people who find it hard to attend cervical screening due to a mental health condition, previous traumatic experience or sexual and/or domestic abuse.

Applies to England


Cervical screening: extra support checklist

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This information is for people who find it difficult to attend cervical screening because of:

  • a mental health condition
  • previous traumatic experiences
  • sexual and/or domestic abuse

Local screening providers should direct people who feel anxious about attending cervical screening for one of the above reasons to this information. Individuals can then use this information to help decide whether to attend, and to plan for their screening appointment.

People can also find it hard to attend cervical screening for a number of other reasons. Separate national information and guidance to reduce barriers to screening is available for:

This publication is adapted from a leaflet developed by Dr Frederique Lamontagne-Godwin, which was based on research with users of mental health services. This work was supported by:

  • Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust
  • NHS Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust
  • Public Health England
  • University of Surrey
  • University of West London
  • West London NHS Trust

We are grateful to all the patients, service user groups, professionals and frontline staff who helped in the making of that leaflet.

Contact the PHE Screening helpdesk with any queries about this publication, making sure you include its full title.

Published 14 May 2021
Last updated 15 March 2024 + show all updates
  1. The following changes have been made to the HTML attachment: • Before booking your appointment’: Additional section added to focus on the steps the participant can take to support them during their cervical screening appointment. For example: Making an appointment prior to screening to discuss any concerns, a double length appointment to allow more time. • ‘After the test’: Timeframe for receiving results has been removed due to causing anxiety if results are delayed. Wording changed to reflect that results will be sent via the post and to signpost the individual to where they can access their result if they have not received their letter. • ‘Getting support’: Links to National FGM Support Clinics added in response to feedback from Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Programme The checklist has also been updated to include additional comments.

  2. Clarification that this guidance is based on research conducted with users of mental health services and addition of signposting to guidance to support other underserved groups.

  3. First published.