Cork woman who underwent private smear test says CervicalCheck 'refused' to provide follow-up colposcopy

Cork woman who underwent private smear test says CervicalCheck 'refused' to provide follow-up colposcopy

A woman who went private for a smear test says the HSE has refused to provide a follow-up screening for her as a public patient.

Claire Healy Cashin paid to get her smear results quickly through the private health service, but she said the HSE will not offer her a colposcopy to follow it up through CervicalCheck as she was no longer within the public system.

She highlighted her situation in a Facebook post earlier this month.

"Cervical Check Ireland are refusing to give me an appointment to have this test done," she wrote.

"I can’t just phone a gynecologist and make a private appointment to have this colposcopy done as the Government are ‘nationalising’ services in this area, in order to help women in Ireland trust the system again."


A spokesperson for the HSE wrote to Claire informing her that referrals to the public screening programme for colposcopies from private patients are being discouraged due to "unprecedented demand for cervical screening in 2018 and a subsequent increase in referrals to colposcopy".

"I had my test with CervicalCheck at the end of May and I was told that if I wanted to get my test results in three weeks time that I would need to go private," she told the Opinion Line on Cork's 96FM.

"I had an inconclusive test two years ago and a second test which said at the time it was okay - I'm hoping they were accurate. I can't afford to wait another eight months with two young children so I thought I'd better go ahead and have the test done privately in a private lab. I received the test results back three weeks later.

"Unfortunately, the test results, they weren't what I would have wished for. According to the test I need a colposcopy which will determine, hopefully, whether I need further treatment or if there is something I need to be concerned about. The HSE and CervicalCheck have actually refused me that."

Claire said she was "shocked and worried and concerned" following the refusal and she has found it difficult to find a private practice which offers colposcopies as the HSE is discouraging private testing.

"They're trying to nationalise a service that isn't capable of standing on its own two feet as well as discouraging people from being able to access this privately," she said.

"I looked into private avenues open to me, there aren't that many. There's hardly any up the country, there's none in Cork and Kerry. I sourced one in Galway, I sourced one in the Mater. It's going to cost between €450 and €1,500 depending on the three different levels of test you need and further investigation."

Claire, who lives in Kerry and is from Cork, said she is "frustrated and angry" about her situation.

I find myself asking the question, why is life so cheap? Why are the lives of Irish women not worth anything?

"This family can't do without their mammy, that's what it boils down to. I'm not going to become a statistic."

She said a private testing facility she since contacted and her doctor both said they have not been made aware of the issue regarding public and private smear testing by the HSE.

"If she had known that there was an issue between private or public she could have informed me and I would have been able to make a more informed choice."

Screening information on the HSE's website states private gynecologists are not registered with CervicalCheck.

"If you choose to have a private screening test (a test you pay to have), we will not have access to your screening test result or information. It will not be part of the information we have about your screening history," the website states.

"If you choose to have a colposcopy as a private patient, we will also be unable to access your results and information. We only have access to results and recommendations for tests taken with CervicalCheck."

Claire said the only contact she has had from the Department of Health about her situation was an email asking her to confirm her date of birth and PPS number.

in a statement, the HSE said: "CervicalCheck provides a screening service, and does not play a part in deciding a clinical path for women who have been found to have abnormalities or changes in cervical cells.

"The referral process is between the woman and her GP, who is best placed to advise her on her clinical options, which may include referral to either a public or a private colposcopy clinic.

Due to unprecedented demand for cervical screening in 2018 and a subsequent increase in referrals to colposcopy, the 15 public clinics that provide colposcopy services for the CervicalCheck programme have experienced significant pressure on their services.

"At present, colposcopy clinics that are part of the screening programme would normally prioritise women referred from the screening programme.

"It is up to individual clinics to determine if they have capacity to take patients who have had private smears."

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