The Health Service Executive has said the turnaround time for reporting CervicalCheck results has now reduced to an average of six weeks, after it had extended to six months in some cases.

Interim National Director of the National Screening Service Damien McCallion told the Oireachtas Health Committee that the HSE hopes to sustain the turnaround time for results at this level, to ensure women and their GPs get their results in a reasonable time period.

He said the backlog of over 81,000 slides has largely been eliminated and the number of slides in the screening process at all times normally is about 23,000.

The backlog developed after free repeat screening was offered by the Government in the wake of the CervicalCheck crisis last year.

Separately, the Committee heard that the results of the review of 1,074 slides by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the UK are being issued to women or their families.

The HSE expects it will be the end of the year before all results are provided and meetings are held where requested by the women and their families.

Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health Tracey Conroy said that an aggregate report will be provided by the RCOG to Minister for Health Simon Harris in October, including recommendations on improving care for women.

She said that based on provisional findings in the RCOG review, the performance characteristics of the CervicalCheck Screening Programme that fall within the review, appear to be broadly in line with the experience in the UK.

A recent meeting of the CervicalCheck Steering Committee was told that based on international comparisons, the 'discordance' rate -  where the results of the fresh review of the original slide differs from the original result - can be 40%.

CervicalCheck has told the Committee that there was no decision to exclude women who had a private smear test from being referred to a public colposcopy clinic.

The committee has heard that some of these women may have been excluded from being accepted at colposcopy clinics due to the workload to deal with the backlog.

The HSE said that referrals to colposcopy clinics had increased and that some of the referrals were inappropriate.

Dr Lorraine Doherty, Clinical Director of CervicalCheck, said that if a woman had a private smear they can be referred to a public clinic for colposcopy.

She said that under the CervicalCheck programme, every woman was entitled to a free smear test and there was a register for these tests, however, private smear tests are not part of that system.

Problems for private patients who had got private smear tests and had tried to access colposcopy clinics were raised by Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil, who raised an individual case, and by Louise O'Reilly, Sinn Féin health spokesperson.

Dr Peter McKenna, Clinical Director of the HSE Women and Infants Programme, said it is expected that the number of slides where the results after review by RCOG are different to the original result, is likely to be significantly lower than originally planned for.

He said that the HSE had planned for the worst possible case at about 40% "discordant" rate but he told the Committee that the hope and expectation is that it will be substantially less than that.

The Irish National Accreditation Board told the Committee that there had been  a 'procedural lapse' in relation to the issue of a laboratory in Manchester, which was part of MedLab Pathology in Dublin and used for CervicalCheck screening.

In his second report in June, Dr Gabriel Scally found that the Manchester laboratory in Salford had been retrospectively accredited for periods of time during which its existence was unknown to the Irish National Accreditation Board.

Dr Adrienne Duff, programme manager at the INAB, told the committee that following an overall review, its view was that the laboratory was accredited.

She said that the Manchester site was under the direct control and management of Medlab Pathology Limited and that Medlab was accredited by it in 2011.

In November 2016, Medlab emailed the INAB proposing to hire a cytology screening employee and to locate them in Manchester.

INAB informed Medlab by email that 'in principle' it would potentially be acceptable but the matter was not subsequently raised directly again by Medlab with the INAB.

Alan Kelly, Labour health spokesperson, said that the view taken by INAB  that a laboratory that no-one knew about was always accredited was 'scary stuff'.

Questioned by committee members as to whether it had ever occurred before, Dr Duff said that it was a unique issue and the first time it had occurred for the INAB.

Dr Lorraine Doherty, CervicalCheck clinical director, told the Committee that the IT issue that arose at the Quest laboratory in Chantilly in the US has been resolved.

She also said that all women have been contacted and the system is now functioning correctly.

The MacCraith Report published last month found that the number of women identified as part of the CervicalCheck IT problem was more than 4,080.