Advanced smear tests 'to be introduced early next year'
CervicalCheck has said it hopes to introduce more advanced lab testing of smear tests – which would reduce the chances of abnormalities being missed – in the first three months of next year.
All slides would be subjected to an HPV test as the primary screening method, providing more accurate results than the current liquid-based cytology system.
Officials will tell an Oireachtas committee today that they are hopeful they will be able to sustain the improvement in turnaround time to around six weeks for the return of test results to women.
It follows the reduction of its backlog of test slides to 23,000, down from 81,000 when delays of six months were experienced.
Acting head of HSE screening services Damian McCallion will say: “We remain committed to implementing HPV primary screening as soon as possible with the aim for implementation in quarter one 2020.”
The switch was promised in October 2018, but the CervicalCheck scandal of last year contributed to the delay.
Mr McCallion will add: “Since we last appeared before the committee we have reduced some of the major risks to the project through the reduction in the backlog and securing laboratory providers who can provide the testing service.
“We still face significant challenges with the IT system changes and to ensure sufficient availability of colposcopy services to address future demand from HPV primary screening on colposcopy services.”
The committee will also hear from the Irish National Accreditation Board on why it was unaware smear tests from Ireland were being sent to a Medlab facility in Manchester.
It came to light only this year during an investigation by Dr Gabriel Scally.
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