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Drop-in cervical screening clinics

This information is for professionals who want to hold a drop-in cervical screening clinic.

At Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, we have assisted GP surgeries and clinics with drop-in clinics and have seen a lot of success. They offer a relaxed setting and more flexible times to help women and people with a cervix access cervical screening. If you are think about running a drop-in clinic, you can use this information to help you plan yours. 

What is a drop-in clinic?

A drop-in clinic is a dedicated time for cervical screening. You might use it to:

  • target a specific demographic in your area
  • educate or raise awareness of cervical health
  • demonstrate your understanding and support of patient needs.

What happens at a drop-in clinic?

Every surgery runs drop-in clinics a bit differently, depending on:

  • patient demographic and local population
  • the target group – for example, you may specifically want to reach young mothers.

We usually suggest you try to make the atmosphere warm, friendly and welcoming. You may offer refreshments such as tea and cake, decorate the waiting area, and give patients goody bags containing some pampering items when they leave. Some surgeries have even created a party atmosphere with music and belly dancers.

You might also choose to run the clinic as a general ‘women’s health’ event. You could invite a number of charity representatives to talk about different issues, such as breast health, as well as offering cervical screening. The general idea is to make cervical screening easier by offering a more pleasant and positive experience.

What are the benefits of drop-in clinics?

Drop-in clinics can help overcome some major barriers to screening because of the set up:

  • Flexible appointment times. Drop-in clinics are usually held on weekend or weekday evenings, which may be easier for patients with busy lives or commitments such as childcare.
  • Relaxed atmosphere. Drop-in clinics are often viewed as more relaxed or informal, which is helpful for anyone who feels anxious about cervical screening. Patients may come to a drop-in clinic with a friend, which can help them feel less tense.
  • Positive associations. It can be a more positive experience. While the appointment is exactly the same, simple things like being offered a cup of tea or a goody bag can help create a pleasant association in the patient’s mind. This may make it easier for them to attend cervical screening in the future.
  • Staff approachability. Patients often feel more comfortable talking to nurses and staff at a drop-in clinic. 
  • Access to information. You may also decide to put up information stands, so patients can find out more about screening, HPV and cervical cancer.  
  • A show of support. The event lets patients know you are there to support them through cervical screening. It positions your workplace as a safe space to address any concerns they have.

Planning a drop-in clinic

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has step-by-step guidance for planning a drop-in clinic. It contains recommendations and suggestions based on the experience of our Public Health Engagement Coordinators, but it is important for you to decide what is most appropriate for your surgery.

We suggest you start with 3 key questions:

  • Why do you want to run a drop in clinic?
  • What does success look like to you? 
  • What do you want to achieve?

Download our drop-in clinic planning form >

Other resources

We have more resources to help you plan and run your drop-in clinic:

Our top tips for drop-in clinics

Our Public Health Engagement Coordinators have shared their tops tips for planning and running a successful drop-in clinic:

  • Do the maths – it’s important to know how many appointments you are able to offer in the allotted time. For example, a 2 hour drop in clinic with 1 sample taker and 15 minute appointments will be able to offer a maximum of 8 appointments.
  • Make sure you have enough staff availability. It is important to clear a sample taker’s schedule for a few hours and make sure other staff, such as reception staff, are on hand to help create a welcoming atmosphere. 
  • Invite patients who are due for cervical screening. We usually recommend having a few appointments available for to book, so someone can take time off work if needed, and leaving the rest of the clinic free for drop-ins.
  • Know your target group. Think about whether you might need a translator, translated resources or Easy Read information.   
  • A week before, dedicate at least one notice board to advertising the drop-in clinic. Add pink balloons, streamers and anything else to make it eye catching. During the drop-in clinic, consider asking staff to wear pink or provide pink t-shirts for them.
  • Cater for patients who don’t have a mobile phone or internet access. Sending a letter has a cost, but it may mean you can reach more of your target group.
  • Consider childcare needs. If you are targeting working mums, make it clear you can’t provide childcare at the surgery and suggest they bring a friend to look after their child while they are in their appointment. 
  • Hold an information stand. Make sure you have speculums, brushes and information available as a way to engage with patients and start a conversation. You could consider offering goody bags with information inside.
  • If you’re holding a drop-in clinic during normal practice hours, try to have 2 or 3 sample takers dedicated to the clinic. It’s also a good idea to have a section of the waiting room screened off for extra privacy.

August 2023 - Please be aware that this information for health professionals is currently undergoing regular review in line with our editorial policy. However the information remains valid.

Improving access to cervical screening >

Get our tips for maing cervical screening more accessible at your GP surgery or clinic.

Information stands

Get our tips for running a successful information stand and engaging with your target population.

Read our tips
Date last updated: 
12 Nov 2020
Date due for review: 
01 Nov 2023
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