Trial of home HPV tests rolled out

More than 31,000 women will be offered kits to carry out smear tests in the privacy of their own homes as part of a UCL-sponsored trial which is being carried out as a collaboration with King’s College London, NHS England and Public Health England.

The home swab is a simple way for women to do the test themselves, rather than have one done for them by a general practice nurse. It is the first time home smear tests have been trialled in England and the trial is being rolled out through 166 GP practices, as part of the national NHS Cervical Screening Programme.

In the YouScreen trial being led by Dr Anita Lim, from King’s College London, swab tests will be posted to women or given out by a GP to increase uptake of screening for the Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer.

Tests will go to women aged 25-64 years who are 15 months overdue for a check and live in Barnet, Camden, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets where screening appointment attendance is low. Research shows 99% of women are able to carry out a self-swab effectively.

Research has also revealed that embarrassment is often a key reason why women fail to attend a smear test appointment, as well as cultural barriers and fear about what it involves.

Women post their completed swab directly to the NHS Cervical Screening Programme’s London laboratory. If the HPV is detected, women will be invited to attend their GP practice for a standard smear test as a follow-up.

Dr Anita Lim said:  “Self-sampling is a game-changer for cervical screening. We know many women aren't coming forward for screening and almost half of women in some parts of London aren't up to date with their cervical screening.

“It's an intimate procedure and a variety of barriers can stop people from attending, even though it can be a life-saving test. This simple and convenient swab means it can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own home.

“Women who don’t come for regular screening are at the highest risk of developing cervical cancer, so it is crucial that we find ways like this to make screening easier and protect women from what is a largely preventable cancer.”

As well as those who are 15 months overdue a check, women who attend a GP appointment for another reason and are at least six months overdue a test will also be offered a home kit.

In total, 19,000 women will be posted a kit and 12,000 will be given one by their GP, with research showing that 99% of women are able to carry out a self-swab effectively.

The YouScreen study will run until December 2021 and is being run by NHS England, Public Health England, UCL and King’s College London.

As sponsor, UCL takes on overall responsibility for proportionate, effective arrangements being in place to set up, run and report a research project.