Make Cervical Cancer Screening Accessible For Disabled Women Like Me
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Hi, my name is Fiona Anderson, I'm a 30yr old Mum of 2 living in Bolton, Greater Manchester. Living with a rare life-limiting muscle-wasting condition means my mobility is so limited I'm hoisted for all transfers. Despite receiving my first letter at age 25 (like every other woman) to book an appointment for Cervical Screening - previously known as a "smear test" - I could NOT access this vital, routine screening as 98% of healthcare centres do not have patient hoists for people like me, who need it to transfer safely onto the examination table.
I'm not an isolated case. There's an estimated 250,000 disabled people in the UK who rely on hoists, half of which are female. That's give or take - 125,000 disabled women who will struggle immensely to get their routine cervical screening or not gain access to it AT ALL - due to lack of hoist provision.
I have NEVER had a smear test because my GP practice does not have a hoist and couldn’t come up with another safe solution to examine me. Home visits for Cervical Screenings aren’t covered by the medical centre's insurance and there is no database of clinics/medical centres with hoists to refer me somewhere else!
As a result I run the risk of cervical cancer going undetected purely because of an accessibility issue related to my disability. To this day, along with the thousands upon thousands of disabled women who need hoists, I still receive letters reminding me my smear test is overdue and that by skipping it I'm risking my life. Some women are being asked to sign saying they're REFUSING the routine screening, to stop getting these letters despite their GPs knowing full well it's an access need being unmet and a possible breach of the Equality Act 2010.
As a community we are calling for the NHS to take steps to give people with disabilities equal access to vital cervical cancer screening. Including by making hoists available at every NHS medical centre!
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