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Wednesday 7 June 2023 Dublin: 13°C
'People are afraid': Only tenth of women invited for cervical cancer screenings made appointments
Out of 110,000 invitations, only 12,000 have come forward, according to CervicalCheck director.

ONLY A TENTH of women invited to attend made appointments for cervical cancer screening during the pandemic, a senior doctor has said.

Out of 110,000 invitations, only 12,000 have come forward, Dr Noirin Russell added.

She is clinical director of CervicalCheck, a smear test service which can detect the majority of cancers early.

She said: “People are afraid to interact with healthcare and come into healthcare settings now because of the fear of Covid-19, and that is deeply worrying and concerning.”

She said it was a problem across the health system.

“People are afraid to come forward. We need to get people to come forward and we need to ensure we have the capacity to look after them when they do,” she added.

“Covid-19 has brought home to us the importance of the ethical application of scarce resources.

“We need to have conversations about how best to deliver these scarce services.”

She said people needed to make appointments when first invited and not wait for reminder letters.

Limited capacity in testing laboratories means there needs to be a staggered approach and a social media campaign has been launched to address the problem.

She added: “We cannot have a situation where everyone who is invited all decides to come next month, we won’t have capacity in the system.

“It is about managing the scarce resources.”

In August this year 30,000 women were waiting for outpatient appointments.

Russell said it was impossible to have a functioning cervical cancer screening service without a functioning gynaecology service.

“We need to address capacity within the services,” she added.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the health system enjoyed the trust and confidence of the government as well as massive extra resources.

“It is a much more challenging phase right now,” he said.

“We are now managing the Covid cases but also in the context of managing all the other services we are restoring.

“People are tired and frustrated.”

They addressed a virtual conference of senior medics.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has said that the unenviable choices facing the government due to Covid-19 will mount up if it continues to evade obvious remedies to the healthcare challenges.

The organisation’s president, Prof Alan Irvine, proposed solutions to tackle problem areas of capacity, local decision-making, and forward planning.

He said: “Our leaders in government are making and facing unenviable choices which increasingly involve trade-offs, in particular between living and livelihoods.

“I am firmly of the view that these choices would never have arisen, at least at such scale, if we had sufficiently invested in our health services over time.

“Time and again, the problems we and others highlighted in our health system were long-fingered.

“As a result, our health service has been backed into a corner and the consequences are hitting people hard.”

Reid said 450 intensive care beds should be in place in Ireland by 2022 and he had been pressing the case with ministers for more investment.

He said: “Our ICU is too tight.

“We do rely on surge and it does impact on elective care so I am making very strong arguments about strengthening that.”

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