About this release

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

Main points

For the financial year 2021/22:

  • The percentage of eligible women (those aged 25 to 64) who were up-to-date with their screening participation (known as 'Coverage') was 68.7%. This is down 0.7 percentage points compared with the previous year.
  • Women from deprived areas are less likely to participate in the screening programme. For the most deprived areas, 62.4% of eligible women were screened, compared with 73.1% of women from the least deprived areas, a difference of more than 10 percentage points.
Image caption Coverage of cervical screening for women aged 25-64 by deprivation category, Scotland: 2021/22
Bar graph showing coverage by the five deprivation quintiles: 1 most deprived to 5 least deprived. An increase in percent coverage is seen from deprivation quintile 1 to 5.
  • Coverage was higher in the 50-64 age group (73.7%) than in the 25-49 age group (65.7%). Both groups saw a decrease relative to the previous year.
  • In 2021/22, there were 280,000 cervical screening tests processed within the programme, which is substantially higher than the number processed in 2020/21 (174,299). This is largely due to recovery since the pausing of the screening programme in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from March to June 2020.
  • In 2021/22, the laboratory turnaround time for 95% of all cervical screening tests processed in Scotland ranged from 18 days in Q2 to 38 days in Q4. Although quite variable, this is broadly in line with historic performance.


From March 2020, 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 the presence of HPV. If HPV is found, the sample is then tested for abnormal cells.

Prior to March 2020, women were invited for a cervical smear and samples were examined under a microscope for abnormal cells. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer, and 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 May 2024.

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: 20 November 2023
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