Most new CervicalCheck smear tests are expected to go to US laboratory Quest Diagnostics, to allow the other main laboratory in Ireland to clear its backlog of tests, RTÉ News has learned.

MedLab in Sandyford in Dublin has the majority of the backlog of 79,500 smear tests to clear.

Late last year, it wrote to the HSE recommending that a suspension of new smear tests submitted to it be introduced, to allow it clear its backlog.

Under the new plan, in the interim, most tests will go to Quest.

Another laboratory at the Coombe hospital in Dublin handles a small number of tests.

It is hoped that the initiative will allow the overall CervicalCheck service to return to delivering test results within the previous 4-6 week timescale, once the backlog is cleared.

New figures from CervicalCheck show that some women are waiting up to 33 weeks for their smear test result.

The HSE has said that half of tests are now being reported within 15 weeks.

The HSE said it remained concerned at the length of time being taken for reporting of cervical smears.

It said it is actively trying to identify possible solutions that will help reduce the wait times which are causing a lot of anxiety for women.

The number of women seeking cervical screening last year increased by around 90,000 - following the Government offer of free repeat screening in the wake of the CervicalCheck crisis.

The HSE will provide an update on the issues at the Oireachtas Health Committee tomorrow.

Read more:
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Earlier, Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the Dáil that the HSE is securing capacity to have cervical screening tests examined abroad.

"The HSE has advised that they have sourced additional capacity in a number of countries and are currently trying to finalise arrangements so that this capacity can be incorporated into the CervicalCheck programme," Mr Coveney said.

"This is a capacity issue. We can't develop increased capacity here in Ireland in the short term," he said. 

The matter was raised by Independent4Change TD Joan Collins and Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers. 

Ms Chambers said women in rural areas were waiting longer and it was now taking eight months for women to receive test results.