Breast Screening
Cervical Screening
Bowel Screening
Diabetic Retina Screening Eliminate Cervical Cancer

National Screening Service update

– January 2022


CervicalCheck marked Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (17 – 23 January) with three communications initiatives aimed at increasing uptake in key groups and improving information resources on CervicalCheck. 

Women over 50

Our communications campaign targeted women aged 50 plus, as new screening data has shown that attendance declines with age. We are seeking to raise awareness amongst women over 50 that screening is still for them – and that screening at regular intervals is one of the best ways to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.  

Counties with lower uptake

We are also seeking to raise uptake in the counties where women are a little less likely to come for screening when invited. The programme’s national target coverage rate is 80%, and the latest available figures from CervicalCheck show the five-year coverage (ending 31 March 2020) was 78.5%. There was some variation within this with 20 counties exceeding 75%; however, six counties had coverage below 75%. These were: 

  • Clare (74.5%)
  • Dublin (73.9%)
  • Kilkenny (69.7%)
  • Laois (69%)
  • Monaghan (74.3%)
  • Roscommon (74.5%)

Media guidelines

The CervicalCheck media guide is the first in a series of NSS information guidelines we are producing for journalists, broadcasters, commentators, bloggers, academics and all those producing news and commentary on screening in Ireland.

Cervical screening in Ireland is a complex subject, so it is important to have as much factual information as possible.  It includes the following information on the screening programme:

  • Background and history
  • The tests we use
  • Screening’s role in reducing the incidence of cervical cancer in Ireland
  • Key facts and terms used. 

We hope our guidelines will help inform accurate wider public discussion on cervical screening. 

Progress review by Dr Gabriel Scally  

The National Screening Service welcomes the announcement that Dr Gabriel Scally will conduct a final progress review of implementation of the recommendations of his Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening programme.  

At the request of Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, Dr Scally commenced the work this month (Jan 2022). By 2021 the NSS completed all of its actions under the Scally report recommendations.  Fiona Murphy, CEO NSS, said: “This represents an important milestone in the process of implementing the recommendations of Dr Scally’s Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck.  NSS leadership is committed to a careful, thorough and full implementation of each of the recommendations of the report and we are grateful for the detailed work undertaken by Dr Scally. We look forward to working with him and our key stakeholders to detail the conclusion of this process.” 

Programme update

We are pleased to report that by the end of 2021 we had screened the same number of women and people with a cervix as in any other two-year period. CervicalCheck is up to date with invites for screening.  

Cyber attack on the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital

Some people who had their screening test at the end of 2021 may have a short delay in receiving their cervical screening results. This is because of the cyber attack on the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital on 16 December 2021. The attack affected the hospital’s IT systems. The Coombe is one of the labs we use to process cervical screening samples. We are working with the Coombe to ensure all women receive their result letter. 

The Coombe remains unable to process new screening samples taken. As a result, all other screening samples are being processed by our US laboratory partner, Quest Diagnostics.

The Coombe colposcopy clinic is not able to accept new referrals for follow-up tests. GPs who refer to the Coombe can send new referrals to Tallaght University Hospital colposcopy clinic in Dublin for the next four to six weeks.  


Due to the high level of COVID-19 in the community, routine breast screening capacity is reduced. 

Safety measures are in place throughout our health services to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

In line with screening programmes internationally, we are focused on 'restarting' our participants' screening journeys, while continuing to respond to the capacity pressures across the health services.  

We continue to inform women that due to COVID-19, their invitation for breast screening has been delayed by up to a year. 

  • If you were due to be screened in 2020, we aimed to invite you in 2021
  • If you were due to be screened in 2021, we will now aim to invite you in 2022

Women aged 50-52 who are due their first screening appointment may be aged 53 when they are first invited. We aim to return to screening women every 2 years as soon as possible. This is dependent on the situation with COVID-19 restrictions. 

Investment and recruitment

A new mobile unit has been added to BreastCheck to facilitate screening appointments around the country and a further two units have been commissioned. BreastCheck has four screening units in hospitals and 22 mobile screening units across the country that stay at different locations for three to 24 months, depending on the need for screening. We are engaged in ongoing recruitment for radiographers to join the BreastCheck programme in 2022.  

Locations for breast screening

BreastCheck's goal is to continue to provide every woman in Ireland the opportunity to be screened for breast cancer close to their home. Our mobile clinics usually stay at a location between 3 months to 24 months. This depends on the demand for screening. We update the locations of BreastCheck mobile units on our website here.

Professor Joseph Ennis

It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you of the death of our colleague and friend, Professor Joseph Ennis, who passed away on 18 January 2022. Joe presided over the Eccles pilot programme and brought about changes in legislation; and political and public opinion which helped to start BreastCheck in Ireland.

May he rest in peace.


BowelScreen, the HSE National Bowel Screening Programme, offers population-based bowel screening to eligible people countrywide every two years. 

The impact of COVID-19 means invitations in our current screening round (where we normally invite people for screening once every two years) are delayed by up to a year. This means:

  • If a person was due to be issued with a screening test kit in 2020, we aimed to issue their kit in 2021
  • If they were due to be invited to be screened in 2021, we aim to invite them in 2022
  • We are prioritising inviting people who have been waiting for screening longest, and new entrants to the screening programme
  • BowelScreen continues to emphasise the importance of being symptom aware, and for anyone with symptoms to contact their GP who will give them appropriate advice on follow-up care.

Diabetic RetinaScreen 

Diabetic RetinaScreen, is inviting people for their screening appointments.

We are advising people to attend their screening appointment when they are invited. If an appointment needs to be rescheduled, we will contact those affected in advance.

We are sending out invitations for screening to anyone who:

  • is overdue a screening appointment 
  • is now due a screening appointment
  • has now become eligible for their first eye screening test
  • has recently joined the programme.

We have precautions in place to help protect people and our staff against the spread of COVID-19. Please attend for screening when you receive your invitation.

Diabetic RetinaScreen continues to report a high attendance rate for screening. We have now invited everyone for screening whose invitations were delayed during COVID-19. 

This means that:

  • All clinics are continuing to screen
  • All urgent referrals are being prioritised.

However, COVID-19 is continuing to impact the waiting time for follow-up appointments. We are working with hospital clinics to ensure all those who have an urgent referral are seen without undue delay. Those on routine referral may have to wait longer for their hospital appointment, or may have an appointment rescheduled. We have recently updated our website to highlight how we will look after our patients when attending their screening appointment.

We are continuing care pathways for our participants who have retinopathy detected but have not yet been offered a follow-up hospital appointment. 

The programme has recently introduced two new screening pathways; Digital surveillance in the community, and Two yearly screening. Digital Surveillance will offer monitoring to people who have had retinopathy detected at screening, as follows:

  • People will be invited for monitoring two times a year. 
  • Monitoring will take place in an existing screening location. 
  • The clinic will take a specialised scan of the eye called optical coherence tomography (OCT). This scan helps find out if further investigation or treatment is needed. 

Two yearly screening will be available for participants whose two consecutive screens had no retinopathy detected.  

If you would like more information, or to make a suggestion or comment on any of the above, please contact the NSS communications team at


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