The 221+ Patient Support Group welcomes a statement issued by the HSE on the 24th January, which offers some level of clarification on delays in screening test results and also on problems that have emerged in relation to standard HPV tests.
The HSE statement advises us that cervical smear results are currently being reported, on average, within 22 weeks of the test being taken. These results would have been available to women in approximately 2 to 4 weeks prior to the present delay – so the current situation is totally unacceptable and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
We appreciate that an additional 84,000 women came forward for screening in 2018, as a direct outcome of concerns about the CervicalCheck audit. However, the capacity must be found as a matter of urgency to clear the present delays and the backlog. It is important that the repeat testing now required on 1,000 of those tests is done without delay.
The HSE has also confirmed that a separate issue has arisen in relation to specific tests carried out by Quest Laboratories on behalf of CervicalCheck in relation to standard HPV tests. This problem, which Dr Peter McKenna (Clinical Director, Women and Infant’s Health Programme) assures us ‘poses little risk to women’s health’ is also of concern.
It has been confirmed by the HSE that up to 6,000 women will be called for a repeat smear test as a result of the issue, which has now been identified by the laboratory. These tests will be processed by the laboratory as a priority we have been told. We believe that the 6000 women, who are being recalled for repeat tests, will be receiving letters next week.
Whereas it is to be welcomed that the HSE has communicated openly on these two issues – it still raises questions about the capacity of our health services to respond effectively to women’s health issues. This entire and wider problem must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Dr Gabriel Scally in his highly regarded report on the CervicalCheck debacle included 50 well-considered recommendations. All of these recommendations must now be implemented to a specific timeframe, so that the deeply concerning issues that have emerged around women’s healthcare in the past 10 months can be tackled and resolved.
We again urge women to avail of the cervical smear test as it does save lives.
For contact: Wally Young, Young Communications – 087 2471520