Childcare offered for free to smear-test mums

A child playing with a toy trainImage source, PA
Image caption,
Registered childminders will look after children while mums attend screening appointments

Dozens of childcare providers across the UK are offering to look after children for free to enable mothers to attend cervical screening appointments.

Public Health England is currently spearheading a campaign to increase take-up rates of tests, said to be the lowest for about 20 years.

Some providers are offering an hour's free care, saying: "A child needs their mummy."

Childminder Andrea Booth said: "If we can offer an hour, it can save a life."

Angela Greasley, who owns Whitehaven Tot Spot play centre, in Cumbria, has been offering one hour's free care since October.

She said: "Childcare is often an issue or an excuse - I put my own test off three times."

About a dozen women have taken her up on the offer, "but it's not enough", she said.

Childminder Katie Riley, who runs Little Foxes in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, said: "Childcare is one of the excuses for women not to have the test, but if I can take away that one pressure, then I will be here."

Image source, NHS
Image caption,
A current government advert asks women not to ignore their invites for screening

Ms Booth, who runs Andrea's Childcare in Rushden, Northamptonshire, said "everyone has jumped on the bandwagon" with the idea.

She said: "Being tested can save a life. There was the whole Jade Goody thing, but now take-up has completely died down."

Along with her, other childminders in the Northampton and Rushden areas are co-ordinating their diaries so they can accommodate children at times to suit their mothers' GP appointments, she added.


Other registered childminders' posts on social media read: "Smear test screenings are at an all time low, for whatever reason women are choosing not to go.

"Yes it's not pleasant, it's uncomfortable, undignified but hey, so is cancer and all its symptoms."

A free hour's care is then offered "so that all you mums out there can go and get it done".

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey) said it believed the gesture was started by one childminder, which has then been "heightened by word of mouth and recent campaigns".

Chief executive Liz Bayram said: "Childminders should be applauded for their pro-activity in offering a service where the ultimate aim is to save lives."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The "Jade Goody effect" increased awareness of screening following her death in 2009

Reality TV star Jade Goody died from cervical cancer in 2009 at the age of 27.

Chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust Robert Music said: "It's fantastic to see that so many childminders are very generously offering their services.

"At a time when uptake of cervical screening is at an all-time low across the UK, initiatives like this are more important than ever.

"The more widespread this service is, the better it will be.

"Cervical screening saves lives and prevents 75% of cervical cancers from ever developing."

Image source, Angela Greasley
Image caption,
Tot Spot offers an hour of free care enabling mothers to have their tests

It says about 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK.

It is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under.

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