Hundreds of women in Kent are being asked to repeat their cervical smear tests amid concerns that a nurse involved was not suitably qualified to carry out the tests.

Health chiefs at Eastern and Coastal Kent trust have sent letters to the 536 affected women who have had smear tests in surgeries in Sheppey and Sittingbourne since April 2007.

The move comes after concerns were raised over the qualifications of one of the nurses involved.

Officials said that although the nurse had attended both theoretical and practical sessions, the assessment was not independently examined and final authorisation was not given.

Although there is no evidence to suggest that the tests carried out by the nurse were of a poor quality, officials could not be certain of the risk.

Dr John Rodriguez, assistant director of public health and screening lead for Kent and Medway, said: “We would like to apologise for any distress or inconvenience this may cause. I would encourage the women to make appointments to be retested to make sure they have received the best quality screening.

“Although it is most likely that the tests were performed to a satisfactory standard, we can not be sufficiently certain, and thereforethis recall exercise is a precautionary measure.”