Developing and piloting an intervention to reduce colposcopy non-attendance and corresponding inequalities: a mixed-methods study

Allison Cowling*, Lisa Nevens, Nicole Contogiorgi, Nicol Bradley, Chris Wilcockson, Clare Stebbings, Peter McMeekin, Mel Steer, Jill Harland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Cervical cancer incidence and mortality is higher in lower income populations. Non-attendance for colposcopy following cervical screening is higher in deprived areas and younger patients. Diagnostic delays reduce the benefits of screening, increasing risk of pre-cancerous cells being undetected or treated later. We aimed to better understand drivers of colposcopy non-attendance and pilot a targeted intervention. Women and people with a cervix (referred to as patients in this paper) access colposcopy services.

For the service improvement audit, we collected qualitative data from Jan 24 to April 22, 2022, via telephone calls and interviews. The sample included patients who cancelled or did not attend their appointment and patients who attended their appointment. Interviews explored attendance barriers and enablers. Data were analysed thematically and reported, aligning with Consolidated Criteria for reporting Qualitative Studies’ principles. The analysis informed development of a pilot intervention, implemented from Aug 8 to Oct 6, 2022, for all scheduled appointments. Patients were contacted by telephone pre-appointment as both a reminder and opportunity to identify and address attendance barriers. Barrier-specific pathways were developed to support attendance (eg, transport assistance). We compared descriptive non-attendance rates during the intervention period and pre-intervention. Audit permission was granted by Northumbria Clinical Audit Team and Caldicott approval obtained.

Data were collected from 20 of the 36 patients who did not attend between Jan 24, and April 22, 2022. Further data were gathered from 88 patients cancelling appointments and four colposcopy attendees. During the audit, ethnicity and gender identity were not routinely collected. Themes identified were administrative, forgetting, anxiety, work, childcare, and transport. During the pilot, 383 (65%) of all 595 patients with an appointment were successfully contacted. The overall non-attendance in 2022 pre-telephone intervention was 10% (195 of 1736 appointments). During the intervention, non-attendance was 8% (45 of 539 appointments). Non-attendance during the intervention was 12% (10 of 87 appointments) for patients aged 25–39 years in the 20% most deprived areas was, compared with 20% (64 of 319 appointments) before the intervention.

Identifying and addressing attendance barriers might improve non-attendance, particularly in younger and more deprived populations. This offers the prospect of improving the effectiveness of screening programmes alongside reducing inequalities in health-care access. The findings of this small-scale study are limited to NHS trust colposcopy service in the northeast of England, thus further formalised research is necessary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S35-S35
Number of pages1
JournalLancet (London, England)
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date23 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023
EventUK Public Health Science 2023 - Chadwick Court, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Nov 202324 Nov 2023

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