Tuesday, 11 June 2019
Department of Health
Cancer Screening Programmes
CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme, offers cervical cancer screening, using a cervical smear test, to women aged 25-60 years - an eligible population of 1.1m women.
Women aged 25-44 are eligible for a free smear test every 3 years, while women aged 45-60 are eligible for a free test every five years. These intervals are based on best international evidence.
Regrettably, lab turnaround times for smear test results increased significantly during 2018 as a result of both out of cycle smears and greater uptake generally. However, the programme is now back to normal call-recall procedures and lab turnaround times are improving. While they can be as long as 30 weeks, two out of three labs are now returning results in eight weeks or less.
While a backlog of around 80,000 smears had built up, this has now begun to fall and was reported by the HSE to be down to around 54,474 by the 9th of June.
Since the 1st of May, the third laboratory, which has the largest backlog, has ceased accepting new slides and is focused on clearing its backlog. I am pleased to say that the HSE has now agreed a deal with Quest Diagnostics to provide the additional capacity necessary to ensure the continuation of the national cervical screening programme.
It is important to say also that the HSE has advised that the natural history of cervical cancer would indicate that the disease would normally develop over a period of 10 to 15 years. It has said that in this context, a delay in the return of cervical screening results, whilst undesirable, poses a very low risk to women.
In relation to the correspondence forwarded by the Deputy, it is my understanding that the same correspondence was sent to CervicalCheck on 21st May 2019, who responded directly to the individual, copying the Deputy, on 22nd May.
The individual concerned opted to have her screening test taken in October 2018 processed as a private smear test with MedLab. CervicalCheck is a government funded public programme and there is no provision to hold information (i.e. results or otherwise) pertaining to private smears. These are considered non programme smears. The most up to date record relating to this individual is that the last screening test with the programme was in February 2016 and that they would be called in 3 years for a repeat test. CervicalCheck then sent a letter dated 27.03.2019 as a follow on from the recommendation of this person's 2016 screening test.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the deputy.