1,000 women asked to re-test by CervicalCheck
Around 1,000 women who sought cervical screening have been recalled because their original test expired.
The women are participating in the national screening programme CervicalCheck which currently has a backlog of over 70,000, leading to delays of up to 33 weeks before they are returned.
The Dail was told today that this has led so far to around 1,000 tests having to be re-taken by women.
Tanaiste Simon Coveney said :”The HSE has advised that they have sourced additional capacity in a number of countries and are currently trying to finalise arrangements so that this capacity can be incorporated into the CervcialCheck programme.”
"This is a capacity issue. We can't develop increased capacity here in Ireland in the short term," he said.
The issue was highlighted by Independent4Change TD Joan Collins and Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers.
Ms Chambers claimed the delays faced by women in rural areas are longer and the wait can be eight months for the return of a test.
The HSE said it is working with labs to increase capacity.
A spokeswoman said :”We remain extremely concerned at the length of time being taken for reporting of cervical smear tests, which regrettably are being reported between 4 weeks and 33 weeks of the test being taken. However, it is worth noting that over half of samples received by the labs are being processed within 15 weeks. Turnaround times are reviewed and updated weekly with each laboratory.
“We are actively trying to identify possible solutions that will help reduce the waiting times which we know are causing a lot of anxiety for women. We are absolutely focused on reducing waiting times for results as quickly as possible.”
She added:”The natural history of cervical cancer would indicate that the disease would normally develop over a period of 10 to 15 years. Due to this very fact, it is important that any woman of screening age attends for cervical screening each and every time she is invited to participate. In this context, a period of up to 33 weeks for the return of cervical screening results, whilst undesirable, poses a very low risk to women.”
Labour Party Health spokesperson, Alan Kelly TD, has said that it is not right that women who are going through the CervicalCheck programme are having their smear tests expire while those who can afford to pay for tests are getting their tests analysed within three weeks.
He said : “It is not good enough that over 1,000 women have had their smear test recalled because they were not analysed in time.
“What exists now in our health service is a fast track for those who can pay for smear tests to be carried out, getting results within two to three weeks while women who get their smears done through CervicalCheck are waiting up to 33 weeks.
“Questions need to be answered on these smear tests being recalled. Were any of the tests that are now being recalled already repeat tests? Has the Minister for Health or his officials contacted the labs to get an exact breakdown on if there will be further recalling of smears as the waiting time continues to rise? Are the labs continuing to not distinguish between women getting smear tests regularly under medical advice and women who get routine smears every three years?
“Between the news yesterday that the labs want to suspend the programme for up to four months and now this, this is a critical juncture for CervicalCheck.
“Irish women who are waiting for smear results through CervicalCheck especially those at-risk, need answers, sooner rather than later.”