CervicalCheck: Delay in setting up IT system blamed for backlog of tests

Just 200 of 2,572 samples checked in seven weeks amid concerns over 30-day limit

Problems in setting up a computer system are being blamed for a delay in completing a recheck of thousands of women’s smear tests.

The rechecks will be completed over the coming fortnight, according to the US laboratory carrying out the work.

Quest Diagnostics has checked just 200 of the 2,572 samples sent to it by the CervicalCheck programme over the past seven weeks due to delays caused by the setting up of an IT system, according to the HSE.

At the end of January, CervicalCheck wrote to about 4,459 women inviting them for a repeat smear test. This happened after Quest revealed some of the HPV (human papillomavirus) tests it carried out were conducted beyond the manufacturer’s recommended time frame of 30 days.


The women affected by the issue had their cervical screening tests processed by Quest between 2015 and 2018. The issue did not affect all women who had a cervical screening test during this time, only those whose sample was tested for HPV. This is about 56 in 1,000 women screened.

At the time, CervicalCheck promised the repeat tests would be processed within four to six weeks from the time the smear test was carried out, with the results being sent to the woman’s GP or colposcopy clinic.

CervicalCheck said that its clinical team was and is assured the HPV tests are likely to remain effective outside the expiry date and that the risk of incorrect results is low.

“While we are aware that the establishment of the ICT system for dealing with these tests took longer than anticipated, Quest are confident that remaining results will be reported to women within the next two weeks,” the HSE said in a statement. “More than 200 results have been reported in the last week.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times