TDs call on CervicalCheck to explain colposcopy exclusions

Some women who had private smear tests were later excluded from public colposcopy

TDs have called on CervicalCheck to explain why women who had smear tests done privately due to a backlog in the public screening service were later excluded from accessing colposcopy services.

Members of the Oireachtas health committee expressed dissatisfaction with the responses from CervicalCheck and the Health Service Executive on the issue, which surfaced over the summer when a number of women said they had been told they could not access colposcopy because their smear results had been obtained privately.

The committee agreed to write to CervicalCheck medical director Lorraine Doherty seeking clarification on the programme's stance in relation to the issue.

Labour health spokesman Alan Kelly claimed there was a "direct contradiction" between the evidence given by CervicalCheck representatives to previous meetings of the committee and the direct experience of women.

He accused the programme of a “laissez-faire, unacceptable attitude” in relation to allowing women with private test results to access public services and claimed “they just will not admit they got it wrong”.

He highlighted the case of Kerry women Claire Healy, who in July was told she could not be referred to a colposcopist because her test result had been done privately. At the time, there was a six-month wait for the results of tests under CervicalCheck.

This position was confirmed by a letter from Ms Doherty in June, Mr Kelly said, but after TDs raised concerns about the issue, in August HSE official Liam Woods overturned the decision and said women with private tests results would be able to access public services.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly pointed out that at a previous committee meeting HSE officials had "regretted the confusion" that had occurred.

Mr Donnelly said this was “more serious than the usual hedging”.

“If the people running the system refuse to say ‘we got it wrong’, it sends out a message that it’s ‘business as usual’.”

Where else in the health system was this happening, he asked, pointing out that many patients resort to having MRIs and other scans done privately due to long waits in the public system.

Committee chairman Michael Harty said he would write to CervicalCheck seeking clarification and they would decide what to do then based on its response.