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"Routine cervical smear experience"

About: General Practices in Grampian

(as a service user),

I attended my GP practice for a three yearly cervical smear. It is not an appointment that any woman  relishes, but it is a necessary and worthwhile screening test.

Naturally feeling a little anxious I was shouted through from the waiting room by a practice nurse. She did not give any type of icebreaking greeting, nor did she put me at ease. 

After 3 perfunctory questions around my menstrual cycle she sent me behind the curtain to remove the clothing required. She then proceeded to ask the well woman questions loudly through the curtain. There was no eye contact and no holistic assessment of my wellbeing.

Perhaps I have been given the wrong message in the past, but I always thought these types of routine appointments would be  an ideal opportunity to access people who may not visit the surgery often and offer a health promotion service as well as assessing the patient holistically. An example of this was when she asked about smoking I said I was considering giving up, to which she said, you can go pharmacy for that. No more detail was given and I would have suspected this was an ideal opportunity to access someone on the cusp of change and give them detail of routes they may wish to consider.

The only chit chat that occured was whilst she was actually performing the smear test she asked me about the weather.

Following this she weighed me and then took my blood pressure and pulse. My BP was 131/90 and my pulse was 124 when taken by the machine. As a woman in my forties, I would suspect these are quite high recordings. She told me it was fine and did not check anything manually.

The whole experience was I guess thankfully over in under 10 minutes. I felt undervalued and that I was a task to deal with as quickly as possible.

I usually find all staff from the G.Ps to the receptionists in this surgery very pleasant and helpful.

I had decided not to give feedback as I don't really like to make complaints, however this is is not the face of the NHS that I wish to see. 

In a way I was fortunate that I am in my 40's and therefore have had smears before in the past. Had this been my first smear I probably wouldn't have returned again. I have decided to give feedback as it is now over 2 months since the event and I am still thinking about it as a really poor experience and I feel this nurse should perhaps have the opportunity to reflect on the impact she can have on her patients. Last week was cervical cancer week and a lot of hard work has been done to encourage women to attend for this screening test. I find it sad that my experience was so poor.


Response from Kirsten Dickson, Clinical Quality Facilitator, Person Centred, Quality Governance & Risk, NHS Grampian

picture of Kirsten Dickson

Dear Anonymous73,

Thank you for sharing your story on Care Opinion.

I’m sorry your smear test visit was poor and I’m disappointed to hear that you felt undervalued – this isn’t how we would want anyone to feel. The smear test itself is never really a pleasant experience but simple things like a smile, a friendly hello and eye contact when we enter the room can make us feel so much more at ease (and almost forget about the not so nice bit!).

You are right that these appointments should be an opportunity to look at each patient as a whole person and, of course, a chance to discuss the answers to the questions that are asked by the nurse. It’s important that we tap into moments when patients are looking to improve their health at a time that is right for them. Sometimes it can take a lot of courage to mention things we would like change and it’s a pity your comments weren’t met with more encouragement.

I wondered if you would mind getting in touch with your medical practice name so that I can forward your story to them for reflection? As you mentioned there is a lot of time and resource spent encouraging people to come for smear tests and it would be a shame to think that there are other people having the same experience as you, but are perhaps put off returning in the future.

You can contact me on email:, or telephone: 01224 558404.

On a positive note I’m sure the GPs and reception staff would be happy to know that you found them helpful and pleasant.

If you are still looking for help to stop smoking and are based in Aberdeen you can drop into one of our Healthpoints for 1-1 advice (at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary or at The Health Village, in Fredrick Street) or you can:

Call our helpline, freephone 08085 20 20 30 (mobiles may be charged), Mon- Fri 9am-5pm. Text 'ADVICE' to 82727 E-mail:

I’m not qualified to comment on your blood pressure or heart rate readings, but if you are at all worried please do go back to the surgery to have them re-checked.

Take care,


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Response from Kirsten Dickson, Clinical Quality Facilitator, Person Centred, Quality Governance & Risk, NHS Grampian

picture of Kirsten Dickson

Thank you for calling and leaving a message with your practice name it was much appreciated.

I have been in touch with the practice and they are keen to address the issues that were mentioned in your post - which is great news. All the feedback we receive is really important as it lets us see where we are getting things right and where we need to improve.

Hopefully your visit will be more pleasant.

Best wishes,


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