A consultant working in Cork and Kerry has said she understands the anger that women have over the CervicalCheck controversy but, she said, frontline staff are bearing the brunt of this anger through abuse and abusive language.

Dr Nóirín Russell, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital and lead colposcopist with Kerry Colposcopy Service at University Hospital Kerry, said the last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for women as a result of reporting around the CervicalCheck review.

As first reported by the Irish Examiner, 15 doctors who oversee the service nationwide are now threatening to leave.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Russell said the situation, combined with increased waiting times as a result of out-of-programme smear tests, has resulted in a lot of anger among women.

She said this in turn has escalated into abuse and abusive language against administrative and nursing staff around the country who run colposcopy clinics.

Prior to April 2018, she said, 98% of women were seen within eight weeks of being referred.

However, now there are long waiting lists.

Dr Russell said that a "perfect storm" has been created where stressed and anxious women are ringing staff who are themselves under pressure. 

She explained that her team is the diagnostic and treatment arm of the CervicalCheck programme.

They search for evidence of abnormal cells if a woman is referred following a smear test.

If abnormal cells are found, then treatment can be delivered by the doctors, under local anaesthetic, to remove the cells.

Although the doctors do not read the slides, she said, they are the frontline of the service.

However, while patients do not have the opportunity to speak to lab or cytology staff, they are able to speak to the staff providing the colposcopy service, which means the staff have become the recipients of the anger and frustration.

"I understand the anger. I understand the frustration but we became recipients of that on the frontline and it's been really, really damaging for staff."

Dr Russell said that the team believes in CervicalCheck.

But she said, they need support from all circles including the media, the Health Service Executive and the women who use the service.

"We really want to see this programme flourish. We want to see it supported because we know that screening and HPV vaccinations are the best way to achieve our goal of eradicating cervical cancer in Ireland.

"We need that support as medical professionals. But we also need the support of the media, the politicians, the Department of Health, the HSE and very importantly, we need the women - the 1.2 million women who are eligible for cervical screening - to support the programme."

Minister for Health Simon Harris, speaking to RTÉ News, said that CervicalCheck staff have been operating under huge pressure.

He said they get up every day to save lives and obviously there are limitations to screening.

Mr Harris sad he had visited staff in Limerick in recent weeks who had been operating under huge pressure and some had been subject to abuse.

He said it shows the reality of this stressful period in the service.

Mr Harris said the non-disclosure of the CervicalCheck audit had been a debacle, which had caused hurt and pain to women, their families and also to staff.