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Concern over low smear test attendance figures

Dr Heather Currie Credit: ITV Border

A gynaecologist from Dumfries says that more women from the south of Scotland and Cumbria could die from cervical cancer, unless there's an increase in people attending their screening appointments.

Around one in every four women in Scotland are now missing out on their routine smear tests, with uptake at a ten year low.

"That's very concerning i mean that's the lowest it's been for a long time so we have a big worry that if this rate doesn't increase that we will be picking up more people in the future that have changes that could have been treated at a much earlier stage."

– Dr Heather Currie, Gynaecologist, NHS D&G

Catherine Schlag and Christine Potts say they owe theirs lives to smear tests. The sisters, from Dumfries, have both had laser treatment to remove pre-cancerous cells, which were picked up on their very first smear.

"It was a major shock for me. I was very worried about it and very nervous about the outcome. The whole process of what happened and the actual treatment itself was pretty horrific."

– Catherine Schlag
Catherine Schlag and Christine Potts Credit: ITV Border

Both sisters have been given the all clear, but will continue to be monitored.

The vast majority of smear tests return with negative results, but the tests which pick up abnormal changes can be life-saving, according to Dr Currie.

"It's just so sad that if we see somebody who actually has cancer where we could have picked up changes earlier and done a treatment to prevent the cancer.

"We cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is to have your smear test. It's such a quick procedure and could save your life.'

– Dr Heather Currie, Gynaecologist, NHS D&G

Cervical screening is currently offered to women aged between 25 and 64 and takes place at your local GP surgery.

NHS Trust defends position after maternity letter

The NHS Trust has responded. Credit: PA

The NHS Trust in charge of the West Cumberland Hospital and Cumberland Infirmary has defended its position, after the publication of a letter accusing it of spreading "false" information.

Andrene Hamilton, an Obstetrics & Gynaecology consultant at West Cumberland Hospital, sent the letter to the Prime Minister Theresa May.

The letter calls proposals to downgrade maternity services at the West Cumberland Hospital "dangerous", and says all maternity consultants at the hospital are against the proposals.

However, the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust has now defended its position.

We are fully engaged with our obstetrics & gynaecology consultants as well as our wider consultant body. The view of the majority of our obstetrics & gynaecology consultants and the wider clinical leadership team is that if we cannot maintain consultant-led units at both hospital sites, we must explore alternative ways to provide a safe and sustainable service for mothers and babies in West, North & East Cumbria. This view has been expressed consistently for many months.

We have been open about the fact that we had some success last year in recruiting middle-grade doctors in Maternity services. However, we have also been clear that the concerns around staffing mainly relate to our paediatric services. In the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) report about our Children’s services published in November 2016, they absolutely recognised the long-standing challenges we have in recruiting substantive medical staff in this area and the fact that we are taking action to tackle this issue.

During the consultation thousands of people have been engaged with and thousands of questionnaire responses and written responses were submitted. They are all currently being independently analysed and the analysis report will be one of the papers that NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group considers when reaching decisions on the services described in the consultation document including maternity services.

– Dr Rod Harpin, medical director of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust

WATCH: We put your healthcare questions to the Success Regime

A public consultation into plans to make major changes to healthcare in North, West and East Cumbria ended at midnight.

The Success Regime, which was brought in to look at problems in health care in the county, say the plans will improve services and save money.

But there's been some vocal public opposition, especially over proposals to cut beds in community hospitals and end consultant-led maternity care at the West Cumberland Hospital.

There have been many public meetings to discuss the plans and hear concerns, but some of you got in touch with us to say you still have questions. Here's Hannah McNulty, to try to get some answers.

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