One in five women miss appointments for cervical screening according a survey of around 2,500 carried out by a cancer charity.
The survey conducted on behalf of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found that the so-called 'Jade Goody effect', which saw cervical screening rates rise for the first time in almost a decade, has not been maintained.
One reason cited for women missing screening appointments was a lack of flexibility by employers and GPs.
Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "For a significant number of women taking part in the poll a lack of appointment choice at surgeries and difficulty taking time off work is a factor in them delaying or even missing this vital test.
"When you consider that approaching 14 million women in the UK are in full or part-time employment the potential impact employers’ and GPs’ lack of flexibility could be having on women’s health is huge."
Over a third of women of screening age* that work (39%) and have missed or delayed appointments said they didn’t find it easy to leave work in order to attend cervical screening appointments and more than a quarter (26%) admitted they would be more encouraged to attend if their company was more flexible and they didn’t have to take holiday for an appointment.
Almost a third (29%) of women of screening age who missed or delayed a screening appointment said it is hard to book an appointment for cervical screening at a convenient time.
Robert Music commented: "Giving a woman just a couple of hours off work every three years or five years or simply offering her an appointment outside normal surgery hours could mean the difference between life and death."
Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment and estimated 5,000 lives are saved each year by the national screening programme.