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Roll-out of HPV testing could be delayed until next year amid pledge to reduce backlog of smears first

  

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The introduction of HPV testing to improve the detection of abnormalities in cervical smears will be delayed and may not happen this year, it emerged yesterday.

HSE executives said it was necessary to "stabilise" CervicalCheck and reduce the backlog of 78,000 smears, which are taking more than six months to report on, before moving on to HPV testing of smears after they are sent to labs.

The Government decision to offer any woman a free test after the CervicalCheck controversy erupted is being blamed for the backlog.

Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin yesterday defended the decision to offer the free test in advance of a review to determine if laboratories could cope with the surge.

He said Health Minister Simon Harris was advised at the time by the chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, and it was in response to worries women had.

He told Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Stephen Donnelly: "A lot of us thought it was the right thing to do, including commentators."

HPV testing that is done in labs will reduce the chances of abnormalities being missed on a woman's test slide.

HSE officials said preparatory work is under way and a tender for a HPV screening partner will be issued in the coming weeks.

It will be necessary to negotiate to determine how and when it can be delivered.

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