Reflections on co-producing a cervical screening film

In this post, one of our Trauma Ambassadors, Della, reflects on her experience of being involved in co-production for our upcoming film about cervical screening.

I provide support for victims of childhood sexual abuse and sexual violence, both recent and non-recent. I had repeated clients that had medical issues that may have been picked up earlier with cervical screening. These clients were aware of the risks of not having screening but actively chose not to attend them because they were too traumatic or felt they would be triggering. This made me reflect on my own history of medical care and the positive and negative issues that it raised.

I started to look for specialist support (for screening when trauma had been an issue) in Essex… NONE. In East Anglia… NONE. Eventually I found a unit in Mile End in London and in Glasgow in Scotland. I contacted the London centre and got no response. I asked local medical providers and practitioners in Colchester and Tendring if they knew of any funding for support… NONE.

The front of the Trauma Card with details of how to use it.

The front of the Trauma Card

Eventually my own GP service’s patient group, who I am a member of, suggested contacting Healthwatch Essex. Sharon contacted me and I joined the Trauma Ambassador Group (TAG) in the summer of 2022. I had little involvement with the production of the Trauma Card but was involved with its launch. I can remember with great excitement asking Sharon for the cards to be sent to the centre I work at. I was even more excited when they arrived, and I got to give them out to clients.

Sharon was aware that I had originally joined Healthwatch because of the lack of support around cervical screening. During a meeting of TAG it was discussed what we could provide and the Trauma Card seemed a great fit. We discussed as a group what might work and some sort of video showing the anxiety around screening was felt best and we discussed the steps needed to put that in place.

I listed some of the anxieties that clients had mentioned, some that TAG members had mentioned, and added some of my own. We all agreed how patronising the adverts to encourage women to have the screening are and that they don’t consider the deep-felt anxiety that they can suffer. Having listed these anxieties, the ideas were sent to the Communications Team.

A nurse is lightly stroking a brush used for cervical screening on a lady's hand. Next to them is more cervical screening equipment.

The nurse showing the softness of the brush used on Della’s hand during filming.

The Communications Team made a storyboard and arranged the equipment. Sharon arranged the place and the people. Using a real medical centre and staff made the backdrop seem genuine and relatable. The Communications Team and Sharon were amazing, I felt completely at ease and the filming was straightforward and a positive experience even if I did feel a bit nervous when I was having to do my speaking parts. But Sharon reassured me and at times I can remember laughing. It all seemed over quickly and now my part is done I can reflect on the filming.

I remember holding up the Trauma Card to show how it can be used to support the anxiety of trauma victims at cervical screening and medical appointments that may be triggering for so many people. I hope this helps one or hundreds of women access screening – not because they know what will happen if they don’t, but because they feel understood and supported while they are there.

A big thank you to Sharon and TAG and the Communications Team for making this happen… They are all AMAZING.

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