THOUSANDS of women in Hampshire are having to contend with the anxiety of long waits for their smear test results.

A mandatory 14-day turnaround time was introduced for cervical screening results in 2010, and providers have to ensure they meet the target in at least 98 per cent of cases.

But a Freedom of Information request has revealed that 52 per cent of women screened in the NHS Southampton Clinical Commissioning Group area in the 12 months to July waited longer than two weeks for their results.

This means that 7,290 women didn’t get their results on time.

It also revealed that 81 per cent of women screened in the NHS West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group area in same period also waited longer than two weeks. This means that 25,970 - more than four in five - didn’t get their results on time.

More than three million results were sent out in England over the same period, and almost half of them were late.

Leading cancer charities have described the figures as “concerning”, adding that long waits could cause increased anxiety.

Only 16 out of 195 CCGs met the threshold for providing 98 per cent of results within the limit and one CCG - East Staffordshire - failed to get any results out on time.

Robert Music, chief executive of cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust, said: “It is creating anxiety which is not a healthy thing, and our concern is that it could put women off attending their appointments. With screening attendance already at a 20-year low, that is worrying.”

He added that it was believed survival rates for women who do develop cervical cancer would be unaffected by the increased waits, but that this couldn’t be certain in every case.

Impending changes to the way cervical screenings are carried out are being blamed for the backlog of test results across the country.

A new test which will look for the cancer-causing HPV virus straight away rather than for abnormal cells in the cervix will be rolled out across the whole of England in 2019.

Cancer Research UK said it understood the challenge the NHS was facing ahead of the HPV switch, but said it was important for turnaround times to be reduced “as quickly as possible”.

Women can have a cervical screening appointment with a GP but can also attend sexual health centres, which are run by local authorities.

They are then sent away to be tested at one of dozens of cytology laboratories across the country.

A spokeswoman for PHE added: “PHE is supporting and advising NHS England in its efforts to ensure women receive their screening results within 14 days.”