asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that special difficulties in obtaining cervical smears are being experienced in certain areas by women at risk; and if he will give special attention to these areas with a view to resolving the difficulties.
We are aware that some areas are less advanced than others in providing this service, and my right hon. Friend will be considering what further steps may be necessary in the light of information now being received.
Is the Minister aware that this appears to be a major weakness in the Health Service? In certain areas such as Lutterworth, Dover, Eastbourne and parts of the West Country, all local efforts, including those by women at risk in the area, have so far failed to get a service established? Could the Minister make some inquiries to discover what are the difficulties and how we can help remove them?
My hon. Friend gave me prior information about Lutterworth and I am rather surprised that she includes it, because the hospital laboratories in Leicester are well able to examine a larger number of smears than the numbers referred to them at present by general practitioners and a voluntary organisation. The Leicestershire County Council has submitted formal proposals for the establishment of a smear-taking service in the county. As for the others, we admit that there are variations. I did not have much prior notice of the question and therefore could not make my investigations in time, but my hon. Friend will be glad to know that there has been a considerable improvement in the service and that we intend to issue a circular of guidance on the expansion of the service to authorities.
Would the Minister encourage the hospitals to continue this tendency to take routine smears from patients attending gynaecological and post-natal clinics? Will the Minister ensure that all patients who have smears taken in this way are, first, informed that the tests have taken place and, secondly, are told, preferably in writing, the result of the tests?