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We note this morning’s reports from the National Screening Service (NSS) acknowledging that 180 samples held there had gone out of date due to a delay in sample processing.

While a report like this is distressing for those involved, the impact will be greatly lessened if the matter is dealt with quickly and openly.

In particular it is important that those whose samples are involved make arrangements to go for a repeat test in line with the guidelines issued today by the NSS.

The NSS has advised that GPs will contact the women involved directly. We would ask that in addition to being sent a letter, those impacted should also receive a phone call from their GP to highlight the importance of a retest and to explain why this test should be at least three months after the date of the last test taken*.

Findings like this highlight the importance of timely management information systems and the value of auditing the screening process.

To maintain trust and to support the rebuilding of confidence in the capacity of the screening service it is important that the details and findings of the inspection site visit to the NSS’s Santry Hub are shared with the key stakeholder groups.

These delays are a result of a shortage of capacity in Ireland for the processing and assessment of screening samples.

Our patient advocates will be addressing the ongoing concern in respect of this capacity through the CervicalCheck steering committee when it next meets.

For today however the priority must be to focus on any concerns held by the women impacted.

*Repeat tests should be at least three months after the date of the last test taken so that the cells in the cervix have time to grow back and allow for good quality samples.