Monday 19 August 2019

National cervical screening lab is still years away - HSE

Plans: Damien McCallion, of the National Screening Service. Photo: James Connolly
Plans: Damien McCallion, of the National Screening Service. Photo: James Connolly
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The development of a national cervical screening lab, which would reduce the need to outsource tests to private operators in the US, is still years away, the HSE is expected to reveal today.

Damien McCallion, interim director of the National Screening Service, is expected to say the plan is to develop a national lab to service CervicalCheck at the Coombe Hospital, Dublin. But "while we are planning for a rapid building programme through a modular development it will take a number of years to implement, primarily due to workforce challenges", he will tell the Oireachtas Health Committee.

CervicalCheck and HSE staff, who are to appear before the committee to give an update on developments, will also highlight how the backlog of tests stands at 75,300 and they can take up to 33 weeks to be returned to women.

More than half the samples are being processed within 15 weeks, although it can take up to 33 weeks for a report to be provided to the woman and her GP.

Last year, 370,000 women were tested, a rise from 280,000 in 2017.

Around 1,000 women whose samples expired were asked to do a retest.

The HSE is expected to outline its efforts to secure more lab capacity, but insists the delay does not pose a clinical risk.

Mr McCallion will say: "We have made significant improvements in the turnaround times with two of our three laboratories and are working closely on an improvement plan with the third laboratory. We are absolutely focused on reducing waiting times for results as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, around seven women caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal are still waiting for their slides to be released for legal review.

The HSE is due to say it has handed over 118 of the 125 slide requests from women who developed cancer and want to assess if their wrong test result was due to negligence.

Irish Independent

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