WOMEN will be offered DIY smear test kits by the NHS in a bid to save more lives.
Uptake for the cervical cancer checks is at a 21-year low, with embarrassment blamed for putting millions off.
Health bosses are now set to pilot “self-sample” tests through the post in a bid to boost screening coverage.
The “game-changing” initiative follows The Sun’s hardhitting #CheersForSmears campaign this year.
Five million women failed to turn up for the last cervical cancer check. Health bosses warn two women a day are dying as a result.
Speaking to the Public Accounts Committee, the Government’s former cancer tsar, Professor Sir Mike Richards said self-testing has “great promise.”
Sir Mike, who has been asked to overhaul the NHS’ screening programmes, said: “We are about to do pilots of it in this country.
“If we find that those are successful, that [test] may well be able to reach people who aren’t being reached by the current service.”
The pilot schemes will run in London and the north east, and are likely to focus on women who missed their screening appointment.
A kit will then be sent to them within a month in a bid to encourage them to take part.
Research suggests DIY tests are nearly as accurate as those done in a clinic.
And women who had skipped screenings were twice as likely to use a home kit as respond to a reminder letter.
Around three in ten women ignored their latest invitation.
Officials said inconvenience was partly fuelling the drop in numbers being tested.
Public Health England head Duncan Selbie said: “We want to find multiple ways of making it more convenient for people to just be able to walk in.
“Or doing it [check] at home. We are piloting in parts of the country a home test, so people don’t have to go in.
“It is not all right that we have this got low uptake. It is just not okay.”
Campaigners welcomed the pilots.
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: “We are delighted that there will be a pilot of HPV self-sampling. We have been calling for this for a long time and believe this could be a game-changer in regards to access to screening.
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“Introduction of self-sampling will be of enormous benefit to many people, including survivors of sexual violence and women with a physical disability.”
NHS boss Simon Stevens told MPs handling of cervical cancer invitations will be brought back “in-house”.
It follows a blunder which saw 50,000 women miss out on letters – including screening invitations and results – following failings by outsourcing firm Capita.
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