The Cork-based clinical director of CervicalCheck has said that the service will remain open during Level Five restrictions and will continue to offer screening to new and existing patients in the weeks and months ahead.
Dr Noirin Russell, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital and newly-appointed Clinical Director of CervicalCheck, said there are concerns across the health service about non-Covid morbidity and mortality and late presentations, and the goal across all healthcare settings is to keep services running.
Like many health services, CervicalCheck, the cervical cancer screening service, was forced to pause between late March and early July this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The service reopened on July 6 and has been asking women to book screening appointments, with new patients and those waiting the longest for testing prioritised.
Speaking to The Echo, Dr Russell said: “We will follow public health advice and the current advice across the HSE is aimed at keeping services open.
“We’re actually becoming concerned about non-Covid morbidity and mortality and late presentations, and that’s a concern across the health service.
“Across all healthcare, the goal is to stay open and help avoid this where possible,” she added.
“Our colposcopy clinics have assured us they will keep open for Cervical Check referrals and GPs are taking appointments for screening, even with their increased workload.”
CervicalCheck has issued more than 100,000 letters asking people to book a screening appointment since the service resumed on July 6.
In recent weeks, The Echo revealed that just 10 percent of people who received a letter had actually requested an appointment.
However, Dr Russell revealed that this response rate has risen to around 18 percent.
“GPs, where the vast majority of women will have their screens carried out, have been extremely supportive of CervicalCheck even though they are busy with Covid, flu vaccines and other issues,” she added.
“In some cases, they may only be able to offer appointments in three or four weeks time but I would encourage women to take those appointments.
“It doesn’t matter if your appointment is in three or four weeks time - we just need to know if you’re coming in this year for screening,” she said.
Dr Russell also encouraged anyone who is eligible for screening, not just those who have received letters asking them to make appointments, to seek an appointment to attend for screening.
“They can contact the programme on the CervicalCheck helpline and they will be processed,” she said.
“Anyone who is due their smear last year, this year or who has never attended can ring the helpline, get their invitation letter and we’ll welcome them into the programme.”