By: 6 December 2022
Latest data on cervical screening shows 15.5% increase in number of people being tested in 2021-22

New annual figures on cervical screening show 3.50m individuals aged 25 to 64 were tested in 2021-22, up 15.5% on 2020-21.

NHS Digital has recently published its Cervical Screening Programme, England 2021-22, which presents information on individuals aged 25-64 who were invited for regular cervical screening1.

The publication includes the numbers invited for screening, the number of tests on screening samples sent to pathology laboratories, the results of the samples taken, and the time taken to return results. It also shows the change in the Cervical Screening Programme’s coverage in England compared to previous years.

Disruption from coronavirus (COVID-19) is not thought to have significantly affected the quality of the data submitted for 2021-22, however changes in activity patterns within the programme during the 2020-21 to 2021-22 period will impact some statistics. Changes should therefore be interpreted with care2.

The 2021-22 report shows:

  • A total of 5.12m individuals were invited for screening in 2021-22, an increase of 11.6% on 2020-21, when the figure was 4.59m.
  • The number of tests carried out also increased with a total of 3.50m individuals aged 25 to 64 being tested – up 15.5% on the previous year, when 3.03m were tested.
  • 69.9% of eligible individuals aged 25 to 64 had last been adequately screened within the required number of years. This represents a drop in coverage of 0.3 percentage points from the previous year, when coverage was 70.2%.
  • Coverage was lower in the 25 to 49 age group, decreasing to 67.6%, from 68.0% in 2021.
  • In the 50 to 64 age group, coverage was higher at 74.6%, slightly down from 74.7% in 2021.
  • Across both age ranges, regional coverage varied from 62.3% in London to 73.8% in the North East.

The report also shows the number of individuals referred for colposcopy, a procedure to look at the cervix.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) primary screening was fully implemented in December 2019, which means that a sample is first tested for HPV and where the test result is positive, a cytology screen is then performed. Those who have a HPV positive screen with an abnormal cytology result are referred to colposcopy.

In 2021-22, there were 235,223 referrals to colposcopy, an increase of 33.2% on the previous year when 176,561 were referred.


Read the full report

Cervical Screening Programme, England – 2021-22

An interactive data dashboard accompanies this report3, enabling users to break down the coverage figures by geography4 and to access time series data.



  1. National policy is that eligible individuals are offered screening every three or five years depending on their age. Individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for regular cervical screening under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. Coverage is defined as the percentage of individuals eligible for screening at a given point in time who were screened adequately within a specified period (within 3.5 years for those aged 25 to 49, and within 5.5 years for those aged 50 to 64).
  2. Due to coronavirus measures, attendance for screening was less than usual in the early part of 2020-21. Screening and referral of those individuals considered to be at highest risk of a significant cervical abnormality was prioritised during this period and continued to take place. From the summer of 2020, screening services were fully restored and higher than normal levels of screening tests were seen. All individuals eligible for screening who should have received an invitation in 2020-21 were invited.
  3. The interactive dashboard is in Microsoft PowerBI, which does not fully support all accessibility needs. If you need further assistance, please contact us for help.
  4. The geographic breakdowns included in the dashboard are upper tier local authority, region and country.