MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris was warned by a gynaecologist located in the Mid-West region that his announcement of free repeat smear tests was “dangerous” and put the screening programme at risk.
“It is impossible to meet the current demand within recommended guidelines, making the system unsafe,” the letter says, which was sent to 20 other healthcare professionals and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The latest figures indicate that over 80,000 smear test samples are still in the system, compared with around 23,000 at any given time prior to that. Between May and October this year there was an increase of 75,000 smear tests being carried out, when compared to the same period last year.
“Smear reports are now taking over four months. This is dangerous,” the letter to Minister Harris warns.
The comparable turnaround time for smear reporting in the UK is two weeks. We cannot be held responsible for the resulting delay in cancer diagnosis. The first delayed diagnosis has arisen last week in our unit from a smear test taken in June 2018 and only now reported.
The increase is due to a number of factors: over 43,000 out-of-cycle smears, or free repeat smear tests have been carried out; an increase in the number of women attending their regular smears; and an increase in colposcopy referrals, which could be related to the increase in smear tests.
A colposcopy is an examination of the cervix, or the neck of the womb, to discern whether abnormal changes in the cells are present.
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