Smear test samples must be sent to the laboratory and made into slides within six weeks of the smear test date. After six weeks, the sample is deemed expired and cannot be processed. Although every effort is made to avoid these situations from happening, it is inevitable that cervical screening programmes will sometimes encounter these issues. In such cases, a woman and her GP are advised of the need for a repeat test in three months’ time by letter from CervicalCheck.
As the Deputy will be aware, since 1 May 2019, MedLab Pathology Ltd no longer processes new cervical screening samples from CervicalCheck and is concentrating on processing all outstanding tests. The HSE advised of an issue arising in the context of the transfer of laboratory services from MedLab to Quest, which resulted in a delay transferring some samples to slides.
During the transition period a number of samples were unfortunately not transferred to slides within the six-week time frame and were subsequently expired. As of the week of 1 July 2019, this issue affected approximately 434 samples, out of a total of 27,194 samples, representing a rate of 1.59%.
The HSE advises that it has written to the women affected, and their GP, to inform them of this issue and invite them to attend a repeat smear test at least three months after the date that their initial test was taken.