Number waiting on smear test result is now higher than 800, HSE admits

The number of women affected by a “computer glitch” who have not received letters telling them their CervicalCheck screening test result is higher than 800, it emerged yesterday.

The HSE confirmed a “very small group” of other women whose tests were screened for the HPV virus at the Quest Diagnostics lab in Chantilly, Virginia, in the US, may also be affected.

It was responding after revelations that 800 women, whose tests were examined for HPV in the lab, did not receive a letter telling them their result between October last and June.

All 800 women and their GPs are now being contacted – but there may now be more women affected.

The HSE said any woman who needed a follow-up would have been contacted.

All of the women concerned should have results in the coming weeks.

HSE chief Paul Reid has ordered an independent review into how the results were communicated.

The normal procedure is for the woman to get a letter with her result while her GP gets the information electronically.

The HSE was unable to say yesterday who the additional women are. It is unclear how many GPs received a separate electronic report on each woman.

Dr Peter McKenna, clinical director of the Women and Infants’ Health Programme, said CervicalCheck was “investigating with Quest Diagnostics whether any more of our patients have been affected. More information is being urgently requested”.

The latest controversy came to light only after one of the 800 women became concerned about the delay in returning her results.

She was among 800 women who previously underwent HPV virus testing but who were asked to have a re-test because the original kit was out of date. The re-test was a precaution.

The Department of Health confirmed yesterday it was contacted by the woman on April 3. The letter was acknowledged immediately and the issue was followed up subsequently with the HSE.

The HSE revealed the computer issue on June 25 and a fuller report was made on July 10. It is understood that Health Minister Simon Harris was not informed about the computer issue until last Wednesday evening.

Dr McKenna said CervicalCheck found out about the glitch in February and it believed Quest was sending out letters manually, which it emerged this week did not happen.

Mr Harris yesterday criticised the response of Cervical­Check and said that the women should have been contacted earlier. This should have happened sooner and it was “quite frankly extremely frustrating” that it did not happen, he added.

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