NHS Ayrshire and Arran has yet to start cervical cancer self-sampling among women living in the area, two-and-a-half years on from a report highlighting its benefits.

Scottish Labour has accused the Scottish Government of treating women’s health as an "afterthought", after what they call "broken promises" over cervical cancer self-sampling.

The Women's Health Plan plan, published in August 2021, highlights steps the Scottish Government and the NHS is taking to tackle health inequalities experienced by women, and to seek to ensure that the NHS is focussed on their needs.

Irvine Times: NHS Ayrshire & Arran is yet to pilot self-sampling for cervical cancer.NHS Ayrshire & Arran is yet to pilot self-sampling for cervical cancer. (Image: NQ Archive)

Data obtained by Scottish Labour via a freedom of information request has shown that only one of Scotland's health boards has piloted self-sampling for cervical cancer, following a commitment to improvement in this area within a year of the release of the plan.

Scottish Labour added that there have been no meetings between the Women’s Health Champion, Professor Anna Glasier OBE, and the First Minister.

However, the Scottish Government says Professor Glasier meets with the Women’s Health Minister regularly and also meets with members of all parties, to hear of their concerns and priorities.

Dumfries and Galloway is the only Scottish health board to have confirmed that it is rolling out self-sampling in response to Labour's FOI request.

With thousands of women who may still be at risk of cervical cancer being missed by screening efforts, Scottish Labour MSP, Carol Mochan is demanding that the SNP act to speed up the roll-out of self-sampling to ensure women get the support they need and no one is left behind.

Irvine Times: Scottish Labour MSP, Carol MochanScottish Labour MSP, Carol Mochan (Image: NQ Archive)

Ms Mochan, who represents the South Scotland region and is also Scottish Labour's spokesperson on women's health, said: “Despite promises of action years ago from the SNP, the failure to progress a roll-out of self-sampling is yet another SNP broken promise on women’s health.

“It remains the case that inequalities exist in relation to screening between those living in the most and least deprived areas and that is why it remains of critical importance for screening programmes to continue to develop and advance.

“That only one health board in Scotland has piloted self-sampling is simply unacceptable.

“From missed targets to no meetings with the Women’s Health Champion, it is clear that for this SNP government women’s health is an afterthought.

“The SNP government must wake up to the ticking timebomb of cervical cancer and act to ensure the piloting of self-sampling is rolled out nationwide.”

Irvine Times: Minister for Public Health and Women's Health Jenni MintoMinister for Public Health and Women's Health Jenni Minto (Image: NQ Archive)

Jenni Minto, Scotland's minister for public health and women's health, said: “Women’s health is a priority for the Scottish Government, which is why a range of steps are being taken to implement the 2021 Women’s Health Plan.

“Cervical cancer self-sampling has the potential to overcome some of the barriers that prevent people attending a screening appointment.

"However, the UK National Screening Committee is yet to recommended its use in the screening programme.

“We are monitoring the situation closely, and laying the groundwork for a potential roll-out, so we can implement it as soon as possible when a recommendation is made.

“Cervical screening can prevent cancer before it even starts, so it is hugely important that people make an appointment to attend when they are invited.”

An update on progress with the Women's Health Plan was published in January 2024.