Government has made a u-turn on a controversial measure announced yesterday.
It had been stated cervical smears had been temporarily halted as one of a number of primary care Covid-safe measures.
Government said it was to further protect patients, staff and the wider public as a result of the increase in positive Covid-19 cases.
However in a statement released today it’s been revealed Island GPs have been asked to continue providing cervical screening services, with enhanced safety measures in place to protect patients and staff.
The Director of Public Health and the DHSC have confirmed that the procedure can continue to be offered safely, with mitigations to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Cervical screenings are carried out at GP surgeries and were halted temporarily to reduce attendances at practices during the current lockdown period whilst the risks were considered. This was in line with agreed measures implemented by DHSC across general practice as part of its COVID standard operating procedures.
DHSC is working throughout this lock down to ensure that as many services are maintained as possible, focusing on the urgent, emergency and cancer pathways. Within this the decision has been taken to allow GP practices to continue providing cervical screening appointments, in a change to the previous lockdown standard operating procedure, and in the wider interests of patients. Enhanced personal protective equipment will be required and primary care providers have been given guidance to this effect.
Minister for Health and Social Care David Ashford said: ‘We aim to keep as much open as possible in this third lockdown period for the Island, and are reviewing the position daily in managing the risk to patients and staff, and in this case balancing the importance of cervical screening with the measures needed to beat the virus back in our community. We have written to GPs today, to advise them that they should continue with cervical screenings with enhanced use of PPE.
He added: ‘I would like to put on record my thanks for the hard work of GP practice teams Island-wide. They are working under pressure in demanding frontline roles, in a situation where many patients are understandably anxious. I am confident that everyone is doing their best for patients at this very difficult time.'
The Minister concluded: ‘Our wider approach to maintaining activity across health and social care services is mindful of changing staff availability, given the current circumstances – and this will be kept under continual review.’
Screening programmes for bowel cancer and breast cancer are also continuing during the lockdown, with enhanced use of PPE, and patients are encouraged to attend their appointments. Patients not due for screening at the present time but who are concerned about possible symptoms should discuss these with their GP.