4,600 women need to be re-called for cervical screening re-test – Simon Harris

The number of women who need to be recalled and offered a re-test for cervical screening arising out of recent revelations about procedures at Quest laboratories in the United States will be 4,600, Health Minister Simon Harris said today.

It emerged in recent weeks that Quest, which is one of the main laboratories used by CervicalCheck, may have been outside recommended time for doing a HPV test on slides which showed up low grade abnormalities.

It was counted from the time the sample arrived in the lab instead of when it was taken.

Speaking in the Dail today, Minister Harris said it was originally believed 6,000 women would need to be recalled and the exact number is now 4,600.

He said the majority of these women have been invited for the re-test.

Dr Peter McKenna, Clinical Director, Women and Infant’s Health Programme said: ”Our clinical review has assured us that this issue poses little risk to women’s health. Evidence shows that HPV tests of this kind are effective outside the manufacturer’s recommended timeframe, but as a precaution, we will likely be asking some women to attend their GP for a repeat smear test to confirm the result and to provide them with reassurance.”

Asked what progress has been made in reducing the backlog of over 80,000 tests which built up last year, he said some laboratories are now managing to reduce the waiting time involved.

The problem was getting additional laboratories to carry out work on the backlog due to a worldwide shortage of cytology staff.

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