A former member of the National Cervical Screening Programme has said he raised concerns about outsourcing Irish smear tests to the United States ten years ago.

Dr David Gibbons was chair of the Cytology/Histology Group within the Quality Assurance Committee of the National Cervical Screening Programme when he said he brought up his worries.

He told RTÉ News that in 2008 he warned outsourcing smear tests would lead to missed cases or misdiagnosis of cancer to then CEO of the National Cancer Screening Service, Tony O'Brien.

Dr Gibbons said he resigned because they did not listen to his concerns.

He said that in 2008, due to a backlog and under-resourcing at Ireland's cervical screening programme, some backlog smear samples were outsourced to the US for cervical cancer testing.

He said he identified an issue when the figures of the results were being collected.

Dr Gibbons said the figures from the US were showing one third fewer high grade dysplasias compared with Ireland.

High-grade dysplasias are smear samples that identify as having pre-cancerous cells.

He also said he had concerns about a "mismatch" of systems because Ireland would test for cervical cancer every three years, while the US would test smear samples annually.

Over half of CervicalCheck women affected not told of possible delayed diagnosis

He said he warned that this would result in sub-standard smears because the method of screening in the US was different and Ireland was not doing the tests often enough.

Dr Gibbons said that he predicted in 2008 that up to 1,000 women could be affected a year and that this would become apparent 10-15 years down the line. 

He said he raised these concerns with Mr O'Brien. He alleges that Mr O'Brien dismissed these concerns.

In a statement to RTÉ, the Health Service Executive said: "When the National Cervical Screening Programme was established, the process that was chosen followed best international practice of countries that had well-established cervical screening programmes.

"Considerable time and research was given to the choice of laboratories that were selected in an open competitive process, that are subject to a rigorous quality assurance (QA) process.

"One of the reasons - amongst many - that the smear samples were outsourced was due to an insufficient number of accredited Irish laboratories, which posed a significant QA issue.

"In relation to the grading system, it is important to note that the classification system chosen by Ireland is the one that is recommended by the World Health Organisation and is widely used successfully by many other countries."

The HSE also said that the international peer review of the CervicalCheck programme will examine all aspects of the programme, which includes both the screening process and laboratory performance as part of its work.