TINA study: How can the language of a virtual receptionist (chatbot) be optimised to increase access to cervical screening appointments?

TINA study: virtual receptionists to increase access to cervical screening.

Start date

01 December 2022

End date

30 June 2024


GPs traditionally use letters/phone calls to invite patients to health screening appointments. Attending screening regularly is important as it could lead to the early detection of more serious conditions. However, traditional

appointment invitations create high workload for surgery staff and sometimes do not lead to high levels of patient engagement with screening. People from ethnic minority groups sometimes experience problems in accessing and taking up health care appointments in primary care, including cervical screening. Cervical screening is a health test that aims to identify whether people with a cervix are at risk of cell changes, or conditions such as cancer.

This project aims to understand whether an automated virtual receptionist (VR) that uses Chatbots (computer programs that simulate and process human conversation) would be useful for patients/informal carers when booking cervical screening appointments. It aims to understand whether patients/informal carers like/dislike the VR and if it could improve decisions to book cervical screening. We want to know if the VR uses words and sentences which make sense to patients/informal carers and to learn what improvements are needed to make it work better for people from different ethnic groups. By asking about the VR we will be better able to improve access to screening and reduce health inequalities.

We aim to interview up to 30 patients/informal carers at one general practice in England, to gather a wide variety of views from white and ethnic minority groups. We will interview patients/informal carers who have already used VR, yet to try it, and those hesitant or unsure whether they want to use it. Data from the interviews will be analysed to find patterns in patients’/informal carers' views and opinions. These will then be used to make improvements to the VR to make it better for a range of patients, including patients from ethnic minority groups.

Aims and objectives

  • To understand understanding of the language, cultural and technological barriers in taking up cervical screening offers
  • To understand understanding of the specific needs of ethnic minority groups with respect to cervical screening invitations issued by a virtual receptionist (chatbot)
  • To ways in which the virtual receptionist could be improved
  • To raise the engagement rate with cervical screening.


Take part

Do you want to take part in a research study?

We are looking for your thoughts on booking cervical screening appointments with a virtual receptionist.

To take part, you need to be eligible for cervical cancer screening via the NHS or book appointments on behalf of someone who is.

What to expect

You will be invited to take part in a short (40-50 minutes) interview with a researcher.


You will be given a £15 shopping voucher for taking part.  

Further information

Detailed information about this study is available on our information sheets:


Interested in taking part?

If you are interested in taking part of this study, please complete the screening survey and member of the research team will be in touch soon.

Complete screening survey

Research themes

Find out more about our research at Surrey: