A severe staffing shortage of medical scientists is leading to backlogs in laboratory tests for patients, according to the Academy of Clinical Science & Laboratory Medicine.

At its conference in Dublin, President Bernie Quirke said that around 13% of medical scientist posts are unfilled and that this was of major concern.

She said that the staff shortages can be higher or lower in various hospitals.

The conference has heard that staff shortages are leading to longer turnaround times for hospital test results for patients.

Ms Quirke said that urgent tests are prioritised but there are backlogs in histopathology which involves checking cells for changes that are important in cancer diagnosis.

The out-of-hours lab service is also affected.

She also said that the staffing problem is causing delays for patients in getting test results from their GP.

Ms Quirke said the academy has engaged with the HSE on the issue and has suggested an increase in undergraduate places, as well as funding for a postgraduate conversion programme.

Three thousand medical scientists work in hospital laboratories, diagnosing and researching diseases in healthcare.

The academy says that a lack of career progression opportunities is leading to some medical scientists moving to careers in medicine.