• screening;
  • cervix;
  • population coverage

Reasons for variation in coverage in the NHS cervical screening programme

In order to investigate reasons for variation in coverage of cervical screening, data from standard Department of Health returns were obtained for all Health Authorities for 1998/1999. Approximately 80% of the variation between health authorities is explained by differences in age distribution and area classification. Considerable differences between Health Authority and Office of National Statistics (ONS) population figures in City and Urban (London) areas for the age group 25–29 years and for City (London) for age group 30–34 years, suggest an effect of list inflation in these groups. Coverage as a performance indicator may be more accurately represented using the age range 35–64 years. Using this narrower age range, the percentage of health authorities meeting the 80% 5-year coverage target increases from 87% to 90%.