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Some 36 per cent of high-grade referrals for colposcopy are not being seen within four weeks and 40 per cent of low-grade referrals are not being seen within eight weeks, which are the CervicalCheck targets for at least 90 per cent of referrals. The two-week target for urgent referrals is being met by 14 colposcopy clinics, with Cork University Hospital seeing patients within four weeks, according to HSE figures.
The HSE’s performance report for January-March 2018 stated that waiting times for urgent cases were ahead of the target of >95 per cent, while waiting times for high-grade and low-grade cases were ahead of the target of >90 per cent.
However, the Executive’s April-June 2019 report did not include information on these targets, referring to the service as being “under severe pressure”.
In September, the Rotunda Hospital’s board meeting heard that the colposcopy department had suspended acceptance of new referrals for four months “in order to deal with current patient care”.
“This red flag to defer new referrals required approval from the National Screening Service [and] was not approved and therefore not actioned,” said a hospital spokesperson. “The Rotunda Hospital is working with the National Screening Service to address increased demand and service constraints.”
The Rotunda said it had no new patients waiting for appointments, as referrals are either scheduled with an appointment or rejected. A HSE spokesperson said it was working closely with the colposcopy clinics to “assist them in improving waiting times”. It confirmed Sligo University Hospital (SUH) also requested a deferral but this was not granted. The number of patients waiting for colposcopy appointments following referral from the CervicalCheck programme were: St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork (1,189); Louth County Hospital, Dundalk (52); University Hospital Limerick (370); Mayo University Hospital (17); and SUH (151).
“There are no patients waiting for colposcopy appointments at the other 10 clinics.”