The CervicalCheck programme operated at 14% above target last year with over 300,000 tests expected to have been completed, according to Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke.
Deputy Burke was pleased to receive assurance from CervicalCheck that it is up to date with invitations to eligible women for screening, despite the restrictions placed on its operations due to Covid from April to June of 2020.
Deputy Burke, Fine Gael’s Health spokesperson, said: “European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week takes place this week from 17th-23th January and it is a good time to remind women of the importance of attending their screening appointments, and also, to be aware of and act upon any symptoms by contacting their GP.
“I was pleased to receive confirmation from the HSE’s National Screening Service (NSS) that despite the disruption caused to many services due to Covid, CervicalCheck will have provided screening for as many women in 2020 and 2021 as it normally does in any two-year period.
“All women due screening in 2020 were invited in 2020, although some did not attend until 2021. All women in 2021 were invited when their appointment was due, and primary care teams were in a position to offer appointments to all women within a couple of weeks of the appointments being requested.
“Figures provided to me show that 206,315 women had one or more cervical tests in a primary care setting in 2019. The number was 143, 334 in 2020 and 259,529 up to 30 September 2021.
“The numbers reflect the reduced number of people tested in 2020, arising from a pause in screening that year due to Covid. It also shows the higher level of screening in 2021 when the programme operated at around 14% above expectations.
“While figures still have to be confirmed, the HSE said it is likely that over 300,000 tests were carried out, outperforming its target of 280,000 for 2021.
“The programme’s national target coverage rate is 80%, and the latest available figures from CervicalCheck show the five-year coverage was 78.5%. The internationally accepted standard for measuring uptake in cervical screening programmes is coverage over five-year periods.
“According to NSS, in the five-year period ending 31 March 2020, the attendance rate of those eligible for screening was 71.8% for those aged 50-54 years; 66.9% for those aged 55-59 years; and 59.7% for those aged 60+ years. CervicalCheck stops calling women and people with a cervix for screening at age 65.
“The NSS said it is continually working to encourage uptake and identify and address gaps in coverage.
“I was pleased to be informed that in 2022, the NSS will implement a targeted information campaign which aims to increase uptake among women and people with a cervix aged 50 and above, as well as those living in counties where uptake is lowest.
“In March 2021, a large-scale public awareness campaign resulted in a high number of women attending for a cervical screening test, and the programme operating at 14% above its target. Last year, the service made culturally appropriate and multilingual video messages presented by doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. They are available in 21 languages through www.cervicalcheck.ie.
“Women are also encouraged to check that they are on the CervicalCheck register on www.cervicalcheck.ie, and they can also call the Freephone information line on 1800 45 45 55,” Deputy Burke concluded.