Over a third of women (37 per cent) with high-grade referrals to colposcopy were not seen within the target of four weeks, according to data from January released by the HSE.
Furthermore, over half (56 per cent) of women with low-grade referrals were not seen within eight weeks.
“Owing to difficulties presented to the health service by Covid-19, we are not in a position to provide you with March or February data,” said a HSE spokesperson.
Data was not provided on urgent referrals, which have a two-week target. The Executive said it was unable to gather data on colposcopist vacancies owing to “difficulties posed by the impact of Covid-19 measures on staffing levels and redeployment”.
Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed that CervicalCheck made the technical transition to human papillomavirus (HPV) primary screening “as planned” on 30 March. Any test taken since this date will involve a HPV cervical screening test, with follow-up cytology if required.
“However, CervicalCheck has paused its cervical screening programme following the postponement of routine health appointments and procedures in order to redirect staff and resources to support the response to Covid-19. In making this decision, the health, wellbeing and safety of our service users continues to be our principal concern.
“Women who are currently being managed through the colposcopy clinics will continue to be treated, as hospital resources allow,” commented the HSE spokesperson on 24 April.
If a woman has had any symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause; vaginal discharge that is not normal for her; persistent back or stomach pains; or pain during sex, she should contact her GP surgery, even if she has had a normal screening test recently.
The HSE said it will regularly review the decision to pause CervicalCheck “in line with the Government’s directive to stay at home to help slow the spread of Covid-19. Please see www.cervicalcheck.ie for more information.”