The Health Service Executive has said it hopes to clear the backlog of suspended CervicalCheck screening tests by October. 

Dr Colm Henry, HSE Chief Clinical Officer, said letters will issue from 6 July to priority groups first as cervical screening resumes.

He said that screening using new HPV testing will start the following week.

CervicalCheck screening was suspended on 27 March, along with three other programmes, due to the Covid-19 emergency.

Around 30-40,000 CervicalCheck tests are normally carried out a month.

The other programmes affected were BreastCheck, BowelCheck and screening for diabetic retinopathy.

Dr Henry said breast cancer screening was complicated because people had to come to a congregated setting.

He said he hoped to have the first invitations issued for breast screening in September after a "refashion of the mobile units".

Dr Henry said the majority of breast screening was carried out in these vehicles and they would have to be repurposed to allow for control measures to be put in place.

He said diabetic retinopathy would be an easier pathway and he hoped this would restart next month.

Dr Henry said that bowel cancer screening is scheduled to resume in September.

Speaking at a HSE briefing, Dr Henry said the resumption of screening services will be based on the assumption that there will continue to be low levels of the virus in the community and that a reintroduction of restrictions will not occur.

The executive has published a framework document setting out how health services will resume.

It says that if the HSE adheres to 80% bed occupancy, given the threat posed by Covid-19, this will lead to 108,000 fewer planned cases being treated a year.

The document also says that the two-metre rule would mean a reduction of around 25% in acute inpatient beds.

CEO Paul Reid said the HSE will be making significant investment in resources, working closely with colleges and retaining GP trainees.

He said the executive will also strengthen community services to reduce the impact on the hospital system.

Mr Reid added that he can understand the public and political pressure to resume health services as they operated before the pandemic.

But he said: "We can't restore services to the way they were because of the very nature of the virus that we're dealing with."

The Chair of the National Screening Committee has welcomed the HSE announcement that it hopes to to clear the backlog of suspended CervicalCheck screening tests by October, but said "major challenges lie ahead".

The committee was established last year in the wake of controversy over the cervical cancer screening programme.

Professor Niall O'Higgins told RTÉ's Drivetime that the most important thing is that "the programme has been set up with quality as the first and foremost ambition and to reassure woman that quality will remain as the key priority".

He said it is impossible to say there will not be a little more delay than there was in the past, but he said increased personnel will help to get rid of the backlog.

Prof O'Higgins said he was confident that with the graduated programme, things can be put back in place within a few months, but that separate screening programmes bring their own difficulties.

He said the physical distancing will be difficult for breast screening and special care will be required for the mammogram mobile units in between different patient appointments.

The Lead Clinical Director Breast Check has said that the service will probably be operating at 50% capacity when it first resumes, but she hopes this will move to a much faster rate.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Professor Ann O'Doherty said that after losing four months without the screening services it will take a while to catch up.

Professor O 'Doherty said there is currently a wait of around two weeks for women with urgent symptoms and this is much longer for those with less urgent symptoms.

The Irish Cancer Society has said it welcomes the "clarity around the resumption dates" for the three screening programmes but said it is disappointed that two of the services will not restart until September.

Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said the return of CervicalCheck from 6 July is "really welcome news for the women of Ireland."

However, she said the society is "disappointed that the BreastCheck and BowelScreen services aren't going to be resumed over the summer."

"Obviously the backlogs are going to be added to during that period, so we need to ensure that the hospitals have the resources to deal with any necessary assessments and treatments that people who get screened might need as a result of a positive screen."

Ms Morrogh said the Irish Cancer Society wants to ensure that all three programmes are "returned to full capacity as soon as it is safe to do so, and that the general public can benefit from the screening programmes and ensure that their cancer is diagnosed at the earliest opportunity."

There have been six more Covid-19 related deaths confirmed by the Department of Health, bringing the total death toll here to 1,726.

The average number of close contacts of Covid-19 positive cases is now 4.6 people, according to the HSE CEO.

Paul Reid said the health service will enter the winter planning process shortly with unprecedented, heightened levels of uncertainty and unpredictability based on Covid-19.

He said the HSE will need to manage capacity in the event of a second surge.