Anneliese Dodds, the Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, paid a visit to Stroud constituency on Thursday, to discuss women’s health with Dr Simon Opher GP and the Labour’s parliamentary candidate. Anneliese is an expert in social policy, has previously worked in Labour’s treasury team, and is a supporter of mutual and cooperative ways of doing business.
The main item on the agenda was the uptake of the cervical smear test amongst women in the Stroud area and ways in which this can be improved. Two nurses who are in charge of the May Lane Surgery screening program explained some of the difficulties they faced.
Cervical screening for women starts at the age of 25 and continues to 64. From 25-49 women are tested every three years. After the age of 50 it is every five years. Although 99.8 per cent of cervical cancer cases are preventable, 853 women still die of the disease each year. Ms Dodds emphasised that the Labour Party were determined to improve screening rates. She discussed issues with the nurses around access to the service for patients with physical and mental disabilities. There are also lower rates of screening as well in patients with language barriers and who held certain cultural beliefs. This can be overcome by personal contact and conversations – phone calls from nurses and local campaigns by surgeries.
Cervical cancer is unusual in that it has a precancerous phase that can easily be detected and treated so that it doesn’t develop into full blown cancer. It is now a preventable disease and rates should be lower now that all 12-13 year olds receive vaccinations against Human Papilloma Virus at school.
Anneliese also held a discussion with GPs at the surgery about the problems perimenopausal women have in accessing HRT (Hormone Replacement Treatment). She emphasised how important it was that menopausal women received the support they needed. Prescription cost for HRT are also a major issue which Labour will address.