Skip to main content

CervicalCheck – Programme update

The population-based screening programme CervicalCheck has been paused on public health advice since March 30 due to the situation with Covid-19. The pause is to protect patients and staff by complying with social distancing guidelines.

The HSE has temporarily redeployed staff and resources to the response to Covid-19. However, clinical staff continue to work within the programme.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, the National Screening Service has been assessing the feasibility of continuing the four programmes and assessing the associated risks. We are developing a roadmap for restarting cervical screening. This will happen as part of the HSE’s overall plan to restart paused health services on a priority basis, as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

The restarting of screening will be based on HSE and Department of Health guidance on Covid-19 as measures to prevent Covid-19 are amended by Government. The health, wellbeing and safety of our clients continues to be our top priority at this time.

CervicalCheck’s response to Covid-19

On Friday, 27th March 2020, the Taoiseach announced additional measures to manage the pandemic including the advice that “everyone must stay at home in all circumstances, except for the following situations: travel to and from work only where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home. All non-essential surgery, health procedures and other non-essential health services will be postponed.”

On Friday, 10th April, the Taoiseach announced that the Covid-19 restrictions will be extended for a further three weeks until Tuesday, 5th May.

CervicalCheck Senior Management Team (SMT) has been meeting regularly to make decisions on the status of the programme in light of the government updates. An important consideration has been the impact of Covid-19 on the ability of colposcopy clinics to continue see referrals, which is dependent on the resources available to the individual clinics.

What this means for people who use the service:

  • We have paused sending invitations and reminder letters for cervical screening. GPs have been instructed not to take samples during the period under review. Updated information and FAQs for healthcare professionals and the public is available on and via our Facebook page and the Freephone information line on 1800 45 45 55. Please contact if you would like to receive this information.
  • This pause is for community testing (GPs and clinics) and not for patients already referred to or in the process of being managed within the colposcopy system. These patients will continue to be cared for as hospital resources allow. Colposcopy units are prioritising their work in line with clinical need and staffing availability.
  • Please note that symptomatic patients referred to colposcopy services are outside the screening programme and are managed under local arrangements.

Status of HPV cervical screening implementation

In December 2019 CervicalCheck delayed issuing invitations as part of the transition to HPV primary screening. In March of this year, CervicalCheck asked all sample takers not to take samples, where clinically appropriate, in preparation for the HPV cervical screening programme. Returned samples continued to be processed.

When the programme was paused on March 16, in line with the Government response to Covid-19, it continued to make the technical transition to HPV cervical screening on March 30. As of now, colposcopy and gynaecological clinics are operating at a reduced volume.

Any samples taken in colposcopy units are being HPV tested first and followed up with cytology where appropriate. Samples taken from patients in a colposcopy clinic setting (including follow-up smear clinics) will continue to be accepted by CervicalCheck.

Restarting Screening for CervicalCheck

Considerations for restarting the programme in a safe and planned way include:

  • Protecting patients and staff by complying with social distancing guidelines.
  • The effective operation of all elements the cervical screening pathway – primary care, laboratories and colposcopy.
  • Confirming all service providers are in a position to restart safely on the agreed date.
  • Communicating with all sample takers in advance of a restart date. Packs will be delivered to all practices and clinics in advance. Promotion of e-learning materials.
  • Updating our digital and social media information for people accessing the service.
  • Letters inviting people for screening will be restarted, on a priority basis.
  • Screening’s position within the health service’s overall ranking of priority services during the Covid-19 crisis.

What people can do

People who are between screening appointments, or waiting rescheduled appointments, should continue to be aware of – and act on any – symptoms associated with the conditions being screened for. If they have any concerns about symptoms they should contact their GP immediately.

  • For other queries patients can call the Freephone information line on 1800 45 45 55, email or contact their clinic directly.