Women considered most at risk of having cervical cancer are to be recalled for tests to find out whether they have the disease, it can be revealed.
GPs across Northern Ireland have been asked to resume the cervical cancer screening programme, including women who passed the cut off age of 65 during the lockdown. Those who are most at risk are to be seen first with plans to roll the programme out throughout July, according to instructions from the Public Health Agency.
It is hoped women eligible for the routine recall programme will receive appointments from mid-August. Cancer expert Professor Karol Sikora has welcomed the move, but stressed services must return to normal over the coming month to limit the number of people coming to harm.
"It's vitally important that we get services up and running as normal, but unfortunately screening is the bottom of the pile because it is more important that we get people with symptoms seen first," he said.
"Services are starting to pick up and as long as we get back to normal in the next month or so, it should be fine.
"However, if the disruptions go on any longer, or if we have a second wave, it will be a disaster for cancer patients, so I hope that doesn't happen."
There are growing concerns over the number of people who are coming to harm as a result of efforts to respond to the pandemic. Thousands of outpatient appointments and operations have been cancelled and cancer services have also been affected.