Cervical screening has been shown to be effective in several countries, although not by means of randomised controlled trials. A screening programme has been in operation in the United Kingdom since 1964, but it has, in the past, been beset with problems of organisation, accountability, and commitment. The introduction in 1988 of a systematic call and recall introduction in 1988 of a systematic call and recall system and the setting up of an NHS cervical screening programme national coordinating network has brought a greater sense of coherence. Coverage of the target population in England between 1989-90 and 1992-3 increased from 61% to 83%, and there is a strong indication that cervical screening is now beginning to reach those most at risk--namely, older women from lower social classes. Primary care is central to the overall success of the cervical screening programme. General practitioners are in a unique position to invite women for a smear test, to take smears, to ensure that abnormal smear test results are followed up, and to check on reasons for non-attendance. Numerous studies have looked at the involvement of general practice in cervical screening, identifying many ways in which the programme can be improved. Many practices are now running well organised and effective programmes.
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