NHS sets up specialist cervical screening clinic at Bart’s for rape victims

St Bartholemew's Hospital at West Smithfield, in the City

St Bartholemew's Hospital at West Smithfield, in the City - Credit: Barts NHS Trust

The first NHS specialist cervical smear clinic for rape victims is being opened today by the health trust that runs the Royal London and Bart’s hospitals.

Running the clinic.. consultant psychologist Amanda O'Donovan (left) with Dr Jill Zelin and sexual

Running the clinic.. consultant psychologist Amanda O'Donovan (left) with Dr Jill Zelin and sexual violence co-ordinator Pavan Amara - Credit: Barts NHS Trust

The clinic is being held at Bart’s in the City and runs once-a-fortnight for the next three months.

It has been set up by Barts Health NHS Trust in a pilot with the ‘My Body Back’ project offering women who have been sexually assaulted access to specialist clinical and psychological support to undergo testing for sexual infections, as well as cancer screening.

It follows evidence from research suggesting women who survive sexual violence find it psychologically difficult to attend regular screening because of flashbacks, which puts them at increased risk of cervical cancer.

“Physical examinations can trigger distress or flashbacks, making it impossible to have the routine cervical test,” consultant clinical psychologist Amanda O’Donovan explained.


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“But we use techniques such as ‘mindfulness’ to help focus on the ‘here and now’ and to manage anxiety and physical tension.

“The women choose how the test happens and are in control the whole time.”

The clinic offers a combination of an expert female smear taker like Dr Jill Zelin, a clinical psychologist and an advocate from the ‘My Body Back’ project.

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The project’s founder, Pavan Amara, has been contracted by the health trust as an independent ‘sexual violence co-ordinator’ to work with doctors at the clinic.

She said: “I spoke to women who had experienced rape about the physical repercussions who found it difficult to attend screening appointments.

“They wanted a specialist service—so I set up the project to work with Barts trust.”

The fortnightly clinic is being held on alternate Thursdays at St Bartholemew’s Hospital in West Smithfield, near St Paul’s, until November.

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