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The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) recently undertook a review of CervicalCheck letters that were returned unopened by the intended recipients.

As there is no single population register, unique identifier or post code system in Ireland, CervicalCheck compiles its register of eligible women aged 25 to 60 from information received from the Department of Social Protection and self registration of women (online, by Freephone or by completion and return by Freepost of a self registration form).

The Cervical Screening Register (CSR) is a secure electronic database. Every woman on the CSR is sent a letter of invitation for a free smear test over each three year screening round. If a woman does not respond to her initial letter of invitation she is sent two reminder letters at two monthly intervals.

The first and only controlled check on the accuracy of the data supplied is the issuing of a letter of invitation to screening. The cost of sending a letter is considered a reasonable investment to ascertain whether the intended recipient is at the given address. To not contact every woman on the database would be negligent. Returned letters are used to continually update records on the CSR.

On conclusion of the review, the NCSS can confirm that between 1 September 2009 and 14 May 2010, CervicalCheck issued in excess of 1.2 million letters to women aged 25 to 60. During this time 52,069 letters that were sent to 25,480 women were returned unopened by the intended recipients.

Ninety eight per cent of returned letters were invitation or reminder letters, inviting women to arrange a free smear test as part of the CervicalCheck programme. In over 94 per cent of instances the invitation or re-call letter issued by CervicalCheck was received by the intended recipient. A failure to deliver rate of within six per cent of invitations is within acceptable norms considering the current transient nature of the target population and increased emigration. This indicates that the population register used by CervicalCheck is substantially accurate.

To improve the demographic accuracy of the CSR, CervicalCheck has been developing an online self search and register facility for women and smeartakers on its website Scheduled for availability in June, the facility will allow both women and smeartakers to check the register to ensure individual women are registered correctly, register online, or update demographic details if there is a change to name or address. This measure will ensure that women can take responsibility for the accuracy of their own demographic details on the CSR and assist in the cleaning process of the database to ensure greater accuracy of women’s details.

Letters to women are issued by the CervicalCheck programme on a daily basis and a small percentage of all letters issued are expected to be returned unopened. The specialist mailing house appointed by the NCSS to distribute letters to women will provide a weekly report to the NCSS detailing the number of letters returned unopened by the intended recipients to enable continued regular and timely monitoring of returns by the programme.

CervicalCheck continues to encourage every woman aged 25 to 60 to register for the programme by calling CervicalCheck on Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or by registering online at



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