TENS of thousands of women in Oxfordshire missed their smear testing during the first year of the pandemic, new data has suggested.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said that a national drop in cervical cancer screening, combined with the 'unprecedented strain' on health services could lead to more women not being diagnosed with preventable cancers.

The charity's warning comes as NHS England data showed that nearly a third of the 201,891 women eligible for cervical screening in Oxfordshire during 2020-21 did not attend an appointment.

Routine smear tests are offered to women between the ages of 25 and 64 to detect any abnormalities within the cervix and to prevent cervical cancer.

In Oxfordshire, 69 per cent of women eligible were screened - down from 71 per cent the year before.

This means an estimated 62,198 women in Oxfordshire missed out on the service

Uptake across the county during 2020-21 was higher for older women, with 75 per cent of those aged 50 to 64 receiving a smear test, compared to 66 per cent of women between 25 and 49.

According to research by the charity, many women were put off attending their screenings due to concerns about the risk of catching Covid-19 during their appointment.

Samantha Dixon, the charity's chief executive, said the national drop in screenings was not unexpected in light of the pandemic but said it remained a worry.

She said: "Our health service is under unprecedented strain at the moment and facing a long winter.

"We cannot afford to let coverage slip further.

"It will only lead to even more cancers that could have been prevented.

"In some areas coverage is lower than one in two and that should be ringing alarm bells."