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Smear test backlog will be 'significantly reduced' over the summer months, says Harris

The Health Minister also said political parties should not be playing ‘party politics’ with women’s health.

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HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris says the long backlog of 80,000 smear tests at the centre of the ongoing cervical check debacle will start to clear over the summer months.

Last year, Harris began consultations to address the concerns around the accuracy of smear test results under the national CervicalCheck programme.

Repeat smear tests were then offered under advice from medical staff and GPs working closely with the minister.

Following a backlog of 80,000 women waiting for the results of their repeat tests, and with waiting times of over half a year, the minister came under fire from opposition TDs.

Harris, however, today moved to reassure women that additional capacity has been identified by the HSE and the backlog will begin to clear over the summer months.

“It’s very easy, a year on, for everybody to be wise in hindsight,” he said.  

“This was a very frightening time. It was a time in which we couldn’t provide reassurance to the women in Ireland in relation to their smear tests, and they were already making their own healthcare decisions to go to their own GP.

“The question was who is going to pay for their test? Were we going to add insult to injury on top of what had been an awful debacle with CervicalCheck, and to actually tell women they have to pay for their repeat smear test.

“We heard some very good news from the HSE that they have now identified additional capacity.

“If they can bring that additional capacity on stream in the coming weeks, they expect the backlog to significantly reduce during the summer months and that’s what women want to know.”

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Speaking to reporters at the launch of the Healthy Ireland campaign, he said opposition politicians were playing a game of “party politics” which he said “does nothing to serve women’s health”.

“It’s a little bit disappointing that some are choosing to play party politics with such an important issue in relation to women’s health,” Harris said.

“I think it’s more than disappointing, I think it’s a little bit crass. I guess that might be the time of the political cycle that we’re in but it does nothing to serve women’s health.

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