I take it that the Deputy is referring to the cost of a smear retest following the issue that has arisen in relation to secondary HPV testing.
Where low grade changes are detected on a cervical smear test, a second, so-called ‘triage test’ – which looks for the HPV virus – is carried out by laboratories. If HPV is found, women are recommended to attend for further testing. If HPV is not found, women are recommended to attend for routine screening again in 3-5 years. In the test used by the laboratory concerned, the manufacturer’s recommendation is that the test for HPV should be carried out within 30 days of the sample having been given by a woman.
The HSE has advised that clinical research shows that HPV tests remain effective even when they are performed outside the recommended timeframe and that there is little risk of inaccuracy due to the issue that Quest has identified. While the clinical advice is that the risk is very low, the HSE nevertheless is inviting the affected women to have a retest to provide assurance both to women and to the HSE.
I can confirm that, in cases where the HSE is inviting the affected women to have a repeat screening test due to the testing of their sample outside the manufacturers recommended timeframe, these tests will be provided free of charge and will be processed by the laboratory as a priority.