78,000 women face delay of up to 27 weeks for screening test results
The backlog of women's slides sent for cervical screening remains high at 78,000, with test results not returned for up to 27 weeks, a spokeswoman for CervicalCheck has confirmed.
"Some of our existing providers have managed to reduce the wait times and we continue to work with others to try to find additional capacity," she said.
In 2018, around 370,000 women presented for screening - compared to 280,000 in 2017 - after an offer was made to have additional free tests.
"This increase of 90,000 was as a result of the uptake of the out-of-cycle smear test and more women presenting to the programme, which would in normal circumstances be a positive step.
"We have worked with existing private providers, other private providers and public service providers in other countries to try to increase our laboratory capacity. While we continue to pursue active leads this has proved very challenging due to the global shortage in cytology," she added.
Health Minister Simon Harris said laboratories are prioritising slides which originate from women who attended colposcopy exams.
Responding to Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Stephen Donnelly, he said "the delay in the return of cervical screening results, whilst undesirable, is not necessarily dangerous and poses a very low risk".