Following on from my post about being denied access to a smear test, I decided to write to my GP to try to get some answers and a possible solution.
If you would like to find out more about why myself and thousands of other disabled women are being denied access to life saving smear tests, please read this post.
Letter to my GP
In an attempt to find a solution to this problem, I wrote the following to my GP;
“I’m writing to you because it’s been over 7 years since my last smear test and this concerns me. When I spoke to you about this a few months ago, you told me smear tests couldn’t be carried out at home, and I would have to visit the surgery. Unfortunately I’m unable to come into the GP surgery as I cannot sit or stand for more than 5 mins before dizziness, weakness, palpitations and pain make it unbearable.
I’m writing to ask if the situation has changed, or whether there are any other options for me? I really don’t feel comfortable with the length of time it has been since my last cervical cancer screening.
Also, are you able to tell me the reasons why smear tests cannot be carried out at home please? I have spoken to other women with ME/CFS and this problem seems to be widespread across the UK. I would like to find a way to raise awareness about the issue and to find possible solutions.”
My GPs response
My GP has responded (see photo) with problems but no solutions. The obstacles she mentions can easily be overcome;
✔️I have a hospital bed and the height is adjustable
✔️I have also spoken to other women in the same position as me, and nurses have worn head torches to provide extra light, to allow smear tests to be carried out at home
✔️I also have a main light above my bed and the brightness can be adjusted
✔️With regards to a mattress being too soft; I do have quite a firm mattress, but I would be happy to lie on a board for the short duration of the smear test. But she doesn’t even give this option
✔️Home testing kits are not yet available in the UK
✔️She is completely missing the point with regards to my mobility issues – I cannot attend an appointment at the surgery, no matter what time of day it is
She has accepted that there is an issue, and she is also concerned that it’s been over 7 years since my last smear test, but adds “I’m sorry I can’t be of help”
I will respond to her and the points she has raised, but I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. Surely it can’t be that difficult to carry out a smear test at home for those women who are bed bound?
I have now spoken to quite a few nurses with regards to this issue, and many have confirmed that they have carried out smear tests at a patient’s home without any problems. All that is needed is a head torch. I understand that I’m asking for for my GP surgery to go outside of their normal practices, but my situation, like thousands of other disabled women, is outside the normal. ALL women deserve to have access to potentially life saving smear tests, there shouldn’t be all these obstacles in the way.
January is Cervical cancer awareness month, and everywhere I turn there are posts and campaigns encouraging women to get passed their embarrassment and have a smear test. I am not embarrassed. I have been fighting to have a smear test for 5 years now. It shouldn’t be this hard.
✔Smear test update
I have finally been successful in persuading my GP practice to carry out a smear test at my home.
Last week I had my smear test. The nurse was lovely, and it was pretty straightforward. She wore a head torch, and we adjusted the height of my bed, but apart from that it was no different than a smear test at the GP practice. So we know it’s possible, but sadly many disabled women are still being denied this option.
I did ask the nurse that, now they are aware that smear tests can be carried out at home, would they be making this option available to other female, housebound patients at the surgery. Sadly, the answer was basically “no”. Apparently I’m an exceptional case due to the length of time since my last screening, and the long term nature of my ill-health. She said, in most cases the smear test would just be delayed until the patient was well enough to visit the practice, but each person would be dealt with on “a case by case basis”.
I have already had my results back, and “no evidence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) was found” – so all clear.
But I will continue to campaign about this issue. There are still potentially thousands of disabled women being denied access to smear tests. Frustratingly, there are simple solutions to the obstacles our disabilities cause, but still GP practices are not making necessary adjustments to make screening available for ALL women.
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