Women should be offered on the spot smear testing in practices to increase uptake, a report has claimed.
The report, from think tank Demos claims that a 100% screening rate would cut the number of women facing cervical cancer by a third.
And a 100% screening rate could also reduce deaths by almost half, saving 1,176 lives over five years.
The number of women attending regular screening has dropped steadily over the past 15 years, with just 78.3% tested last year.
The most common reason for refusing a smear test was embarrassment (35%), while many (17%) said they were too busy or didn't have the time. And 15% said they avoided the test because it is too painful.
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “The results of this report clearly highlight the urgent need to find ways to encourage more women to attend screening. By making a small investment in targeted prevention campaigns now we could not only save millions of pounds for the state but also prevent many more women from enduring the devastating long term implications of treatment as well as save lives altogether.
“We sincerely hope that cervical cancer prevention can be given greater priority at policy level. If the recommendations in this report can be taken forward, we may start to see a future where cervical cancer becomes a disease of the past.”
Royal College of General Practitioners chair Dr Maureen Baker said: "GPs will check that patients are up to date with health checks such as smear tests as part of their routine appointment if appropriate. But the choice should always be left to the woman – the average GP consultation is currently only 10 minutes long and it is imperative that this time is dedicated to addressing the particular problem or condition that the patient presents with. No-one should ever leave their GP surgery feeling that they have been pressurised into having a test that they did not want.
“Raising awareness and prevention of cervical cancer is an important part of the GP’s role and we are constantly striving to increase take-up rates."