Breast Screening
Cervical Screening
Bowel Screening
Diabetic Retina Screening

National Screening Service update

– 10 May 2021


We are working hard to restart our participants' screening journeys. We are focused on achieving a maximum invitation rate that is compatible with a safe follow-up assessment, and the treatment capacity within the health service.

We are asking women to join with us in making sure those who have been waiting longest are screened in a timely manner. Our social media information campaign is encouraging women to attend and to make sure every appointment slot is filled. We are also: 

  • Asking women to check their details on the register and letting them know we will call them for screening as soon as we can
  • Letting women know how we are keeping them safe during the screening process
  • Emphasising the importance of looking out for symptoms, and to contact your GP if you have symptoms
  • Updating our BreastCheck website to inform women as to the status of screening.

Every area of life has been affected by COVID-19 and breast screening is no exception. We have lost nearly a year of screening time. Unfortunately, this means appointments in this two-year screening round are delayed by up to a year. For a period of time, Ireland will be more in line with England, which screens women every three years. We aim to return to screening women every two years as soon as possible.

What we are doing to restart as many women as possible on their screening journey during COVID19:

  • Staff recruitment and retention drive (it takes up to 15 years to train a radiologist and 10 years to train a radiographer)
  • Vaccinating staff and carrying out additional COVID-19 safety procedures
  • Using a new text-messaging system to make sure we fill every appointment slot
  • Streamlining our safety procedures to increase the number of women seen per day in our units.


We are working hard to process an extremely high volume of screening tests. High test volumes can put pressure on laboratory consumables, which are in demand worldwide during COVID-19. High volumes increase turnaround times and could delay follow-up care being scheduled at colposcopy.

Pre-COVID-19 capacity is not yet achievable as our clinical staff in primary care, in our laboratories and our colposcopy units continue to adhere to social distance requirements and new infection control measures.

In order to better match the volume of sample-taking in the community to capacity across the screening pathway, we are:

  • Increasing our laboratory capacity to process samples
  • Asking our sampletakers to maintain their regular number of screening clinics/ appointments, and inform their patients of the extended waiting times for results 
  • Informing women that it is safe to wait a few weeks for their appointment.
  • Updating our website to let women know the turnaround time for test results is 8 to 10 weeks.

Multilingual resources

We have updated our HPV screening information to include information sheets and screening forms, available here, in the following languages; English, Irish, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, Romanian, Spanish, Russian, French, Urdu, Lithuanian, Latvian and Chinses. The information sheets join a suite of videos which explain the HPV test in 11 different languages. They are available to download here. If you think we are missing an important language, please contact us at 


BowelScreen is continuing to work to get back to pre-COVID activity. This is dependent on hospital capacity, which is increasing as projected this year.

We continue to support the National Endoscopy Programme’s COVID-19 response. We know it will take us longer to invite everyone who is due their screening appointment in 2020 and 2021.  However, we are working hard to restart our participants’ screening journey and expect to return to full capacity by the end of the year.

We continue to encourage awareness of symptoms, and of registering for bowel screening. Through our recent social media, press and radio campaign which ran during April, Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, we:

  • asked people aged 60-69 years to check that they are on the bowel screening register, and to do the free home test when they receive it.
  • raised awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and asked people to contact their GP if they have symptoms.
  • explained the bowel screen process and asked people to check or contact us for more information.

Diabetic RetinaScreen

Diabetic RetinaScreen is continuing to invite participants for screening, with regional variations in screening capacity at this time.

In February, Diabetic RetinaScreen introduced a two-yearly screening pathway for screening participants who fulfil a certain criteria. Until recently, programme participants were invited for diabetic retinal screening once a year. Now, if a person has received a result of 'no retinopathy' from their previous two screenings, their next Diabetic RetinaScreen screening invitation will be two years from the time of their last screen.

Following a patient's diabetic retinopathy screening appointment they may be referred to a diabetic retinopathy treatment clinic.

  • Treatment times have been extended beyond our 13 to 18 week target due to Covid-19.
  • We are working with the host hospitals as they make local decisions on their treatment capacity.
  • All urgent referrals are being prioritised.
  • We are updating our website information to let patients know that treatment waiting times have increased, and that their hospital appointments may be delayed or rescheduled to a later date.
  • We are asking our participants to be aware of symptoms and if they have concerns about their eyes or eyesight they should contact their GP, eye doctor or optician as soon as possible.


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