Tuesday 25 June 2019

CervicalCheck forced to send tests to four labs in the US to clear backlog

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan
Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

CervicalCheck has been forced to outsource the backlog of smear tests from women in Ireland to four different laboratories in the United States.

The move emerged today in a bid to clear the massive backlog of 65,000 smear tests which has led to many women waiting months for results.

The HSE said an agreement has been reached with Quest laboratories which currently processes smear tests for the Irish screening programme CervicalCheck in New Jersey.

But it will mean the tests will now have to be distributed among more laboratories.

The HSE said the new labs have been inspected for quality control and safety.

The backlog has led to long delays in returning results to women who can be waiting up to 33 weeks.

It built up last year after women were offered an additional test, outside of their normal schedule, as public anxiety mounted during the CervicalCheck scandal.

Quest was recently sued by Ruth Morrissey, who developed cervical cancer after getting a wrong smear test result.

It is currently appealing the High Court ruling which said labs should have “absolute confidence” that a result has no abnormalities before passing it as clear.

CervicalCheck is also serviced by labs in the Coombe Hospital and Medlab which is now not accepting new tests in a bid to clear the backlog.

The programme should typically have approximately 23,000 samples in progress at any one time, with turnaround targets of 4-6 weeks.

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