Last week I spoke openly about the barriers to cervical screening for all genders with a disability/impairment – for something that is classed as a routine procedure and offered to all genders with a cervix from the age of 25 there is still huge barriers to over come before we get it right for everyone that’s disabled.
In this article I am going to talk about what you can do if you’re struggling to gain access or feel you’re not being treated with respect.
But firstly if you are unsure what a cervical smear is – it is used to detect early abnormalities which could develop into cervical cancer if left untreated. The screening programme has been estimated to save more than 4,000 lives every year. In the UK there are 13.9 million people with a disability/impairment 56% of whom are born with a cervix.
63% have been unable to attend a screening due to their disability/impairment and half did not attend due to a previous bad experience or fears about how health professionals might react.
Physical barriers include – access into a GP surgery, no disabled parking available or not having acces to the right equipment like an examination bed/table or hoist. That’s without even touching upon the feeling of anxiety for some disabled people on how some professional have treated them.
What can you do if you’re struggling to access screening?
- Contact your GP or practice manager to ask if they have equipment or measures available for your needs in order for you to access the test at your surgery. These might include:
- Wheelchair access
- A longer appointment
- Hoists and/or height-adjustable beds
- If your needs cannot be met in your local surgery ask to be referred to somewhere that can met your needs like your local hospital or sexual health clinic
- Unable to leave the house or none of the above is available then request if a home visit can be arranged
- If ALL of the above is still unable to meet your needs to get a test then contact your local NHS – for example your Clinical Commissioning Group or Health Board
- Contacting the cervical screening programme directly, they may be able to take action on your behalf if you feel overwhelmed.
Other ways to raise the issue include:
- Contacting your local MP with all the details of what is happening, asking them for support on the issues you are experiencing or to contact the local NHS to ask for action
- Use a drafted letter like one provided by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to contact your MP.
Health care professional? What can you do if you are.
As a health care professional or provider these are a few key factors to work or improve on:
- Find out whether access is available for anyone with a disability/impairment that needs to access a smear tests. This includes a hoists and step-free access
- If surgeries are unable to provide access then where can patients be referred. It could include an alternative GP surgeries, hospital or a sexual health services.
- Are the nurses/district who do house visits trained to take samples to benefit those unable to leave their house?
- Provide a safe space in which discussions can be had without assumptions regarding physical or mental ability, physical sensation (or loss of) and judgement
- Disability equality training will help staff take the correct measures to reduce inequalities in access
- Everyone with a cervix is entitled to have access to a smear test, it shouldn’t be the case that some disabled people are disadvantaged in the opportunities available to them to access the test.
Want or need to talk for some support:
- You can find relevant charities or organisations that might be able to give you advice specific to your disability
I hope all this information helps you – please feel free to comment and add If I have missed anything that has helped you.
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