About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides annual and quarterly cervical screening statistics. The report provides data on uptake by age group, NHS board, deprivation and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation status. In addition, data are presented on laboratory turnaround times, number of screening tests and results of tests by NHS board and laboratory.

For the period reported, cervical screening was routinely offered to women aged 25-64 in Scotland: those aged 25-49 every three years and those aged 50-64 every five years.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a temporary pause to cervical screening from March to June 2020. The impact of this can be seen in the lab samples processed, and is likely to be influencing uptake figures within the report.

Main points

  • The uptake rate for cervical screening was 69.3% with just over one million eligible women having participated in the screening period as at 31st March 2021. Uptake has declined in recent years.
  • Uptake increased with age from 55% for ages 25 to 29 to a peak of 79% in those 50 to 54 years, before reducing in the oldest invited age groups.
Image caption Percentage uptake of cervical screening among women aged 25 to 64 who were screened within the last 3.5 or 5.5 years by age group: Scotland, 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021
Bar chart showing uptake by age group. Uptake of cervical screening is lowest in women aged 25-29 years old (55.4%) and increases with age to a peak of 78.8% at age 50-54 years after which the uptake declines again to 69.9%.

Source: Scottish Cervical Call Recall System

  • Women from the most deprived areas are less likely to take part in the screening programme, with uptake only 63% compared with 74% in the least deprived areas.
  • Cervical screening uptake is higher in HPV-vaccinated women (68%) when compared to non-vaccinated women (32%). The majority of cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection.
  • Of those testing positive for HPV, around a third (65%) were negative with no sign of abnormal change in cells, 30% identified low grade cell changes and 5% of these women were identified as having high grade cell changes, including cervical cancer.


The cervical screening test (also known as a smear test) takes a sample of cells from the cervix (neck of the womb) and checks it for human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer.

Up until March 2020, women were invited for a cervical smear and samples were examined under a microscope for abnormal cells. From March 2020, samples are tested for HPV first and, if HPV is found, the sample is then tested for abnormal cells. This change is more likely to identify those women at risk of cervical cancer.

Further information

The next release of this publication is scheduled for September 2022.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.cancerstats@phs.scot.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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