The Dublin Well Woman Centre (DWWC) today (9th June) calls on the HSE to confirm an immediate resumption date for CervicalCheck screening, which has been paused since late March due to COVID-19.
The DWWC resumed smear testing on the 18th of May in support of a CervicalCheck pilot, with an understanding that the pilot would move, without interruption, into an immediate re-start of the national cervical screening programme. At this juncture, no re-start date has been announced.
As the largest smear-taker in CervicalCheck, the DWWC has always promoted the importance of screening as a means of detecting early cellular change, thus allowing for swifter diagnosis and the appropriate medical intervention.
Earlier this year, the DWWC welcomed confirmation that CervicalCheck was moving to the more accurate HPV-based analysis of samples, which was to have happened on 30th March, around the time the programme was paused due to COVID19.
Commenting on the situation, Well Woman’s Chief Executive, Alison Begas said, “In April, the DWWC wrote to the Minister for Health, and to CervicalCheck, to express our concern over the adverse health outcomes that could arise for women from putting on hold the national cervical screening programme. We are advocates for women’s health, we know that screening saves lives, and the screening programme needs to resume as a matter of priority”.
CervicalCheck engaged with the DWWC in early May and asked them to resume taking samples as a ‘pilot’, to enable CervicalCheck to test the HPV test pathway, prior to resuming screening on a national basis. The DWWC welcomed this and began issuing over 950 invitation letters to its patients (across all age and recall categories) on the 15th of May, and has been taking smear tests in its three Dublin clinics since then.
The pilot is due to finish in the Dublin Well Woman Centre on 19th June, but there is still no date for the resumption of the CervicalCheck screening programme on a national basis.
“We are deeply concerned over the adverse health impact on women of the ongoing suspension of cervical screening nationally”, commented Dr Shirley McQuade, Well Woman’s Medical Director. “Based on our clinical experience, we know that women are proactive and take seriously the importance of scheduling regular smear tests. It is also the case that many women held off attending for their routine test in Quarter 1 of 2020, as they knew a more accurate testing methodology would be rolled out at the end of March.”
“Our three Dublin clinics have experienced growing numbers of women contacting us in recent weeks, anxious to arrange their smear appointment.
We are pleased to be working with CervicalCheck in helping get the cervical screening programme up and running again, but a date for a national roll-out is urgently required.”
“We have had to make changes to the way we take smear samples, in order to reduce the risk of infection from COVID19 to both patients and clinic staff; while it has been a challenge, it is not impossible. We recognise that there are challenges for hospital-based colposcopy clinics in delivering appropriately physically-distanced services, but it is essential that a resumption date for the programme nationally is announced immediately”, concluded McQuade.