Tens of thousands of eligible Wiltshire women missed their last smear test, the latest figures show, amid warnings the coronavirus crisis has stoked anxiety over getting the health checks.

A survey by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust revealed the NHS is facing new challenges to attendance amid the pandemic, as some women avoid making appointments over fear of catching Covid-19 or putting extra strain on the health service.

Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for screening every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 receive invitations every five years.

NHS Digital data shows 77 per cent of the 124,539 women in Wiltshire eligible for a smear test by the end of 2019 had been screened – the point at which the latest data is available.

Although that was up from 76 per cent over the same period in 2018, it meant 28,339 women in the area were missing out on the potentially life-saving programme shortly before the Covid-19 outbreak.