Forth Valley Team Scoops National Health Award

The work of a local team in NHS Forth Valley has been recognised at a prestigious national awards ceremony.

Staff from the Trauma Informed Cervical Screening Team Project team were awarded the Care for Mental Award for their work to support women who have experienced rape or sexual assault to undergo cervical screening. Research has shown that less than 50% of women who have experienced sexual trauma attend for cervical screening compared to the national uptake*.

NHS Forth Valley’s Behavioural Psychotherapy Service Trauma Clinic provides therapeutic support for people who have experienced severe trauma. The Meadows is a dedicated service for adults and children who have experienced sexual assault, rape or gender-based violence. Staff from both services worked together to develop a specialist cervical screening clinic within The Meadows where specially trained trauma therapists support people before, during and after their smear test.

Hazel Somerville, NHS Forth Valley’s Gender-Based Violence & Sexual Assault Service Lead, said: “We know the importance of cervical screening but for survivors of sexual abuse this can be an incredibly difficult and traumatic experience so many have never undergone cervical screening or have missed follow-up appointments.

“The project has always been about helping women to reclaim power over their lives, their bodies and their choices and I have no words to describe the pride I feel when they leave my service amazed at what they have achieved.”

By using the core principles of safety, trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment, the Project Team worked with people who had experienced sexual abuse to create a responsive and sensitive service where women feel safe and supported throughout the screening process. It aims to increase the uptake of cervical screening to help identify any cell changes so that cervical cancer can be prevented or treated at an early stage.

Following screening, staff from The Meadows explain the results and discuss any future investigations or procedures that may be required. They can also undertake a comprehensive health and wellbeing assessment for those who require additional follow up services and support.

The NHS Forth Valley Project Team is working with a range of partners and healthcare professionals to look at how this approach to cervical screening can be widened out to improve access and improve the health outcomes of women across Scotland.

Additional Information

*The Cadman (2012) study identified that compared to national uptake, less than 50% of women who have experienced sexual trauma attend for cervical screening.

Solmi et al (2019) identified that, despite an increased mortality rate from cancer in individuals who use mental health services, this population were significantly under-screened.

Research has shown that a history of sexual trauma across the lifetime, exposure to domestic violence and multiple deprivation are significant risk factors for cervical cancer (Gesink and Natal 2015, Chorley et al 2017, Madden 2022).