The Health Service Executive has confirmed that women have to wait for 20 weeks to receive smear test results due to the increase in the number of women presenting for repeat smear tests following the CervicalCheck controversy.

Last month, Tánaiste Simon Coveney apologised in the Dáil to women who had to wait up to 18 weeks for their results.

However, HSE National Director Damien McCallion told the Public Accounts Committee today that women now have to wait for 20 weeks and that there is a backlog of around 80,000 smears to be processed.

During the CervicalCheck controversy, the Government announced that it would fund repeat smear tests for any woman who had concerns about previous tests.

At the PAC hearing, Labour Party health spokesperson Alan Kelly asked about the repeat screening programme and the backlog.

Mr McCallion said there is a 20-week delay in reporting and a backlog of around 80,000 smears still to be processed.

The HSE acknowledged there were three factors contributing to this: the primary factor was the out of cycle free smear; secondly, more women are coming for their appointments and thirdly, women are re-engaging with the programme who had not engaged with it. 

Mr Kelly also asked about the delays some women have experienced in getting cervical slides back from laboratories at the centre of the controversy.

Mr McCallion said: "There have been 38 requests of which two are outstanding in terms of slides. The average turnaround time was 22 days."

He acknowledged there have been cases where the slides should have been released in a much more timely manner than they were. 

He said there is an internal HSE team now that does nothing but deal with requests for slides from women and solicitors and people requesting them directly themselves. 

He added that the overall average wait is 22 days and the longest figure is 70 days. He said the HSE has taken measures to ensure they are released quicker. 

Mr Kelly was critical that some women have had to wait for an "unacceptable" 70 days for their cervical smear slides and records as they entitled to them and it is "their human right". 

Mr McCallion said that a process has been put in place to minimise the wait for women.

He said that in cases where there is an impending legal case the HSE has put pressure on the laboratories to release the slides.