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Tuesday 20 August 2019

Cervicalcheck review: Over 4,000 women affected by IT glitch

The predicted number of women affected was 800 (David Davies/PA)
The predicted number of women affected was 800 (David Davies/PA) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Over 4,000 women have been affected by an IT glitch which led to a failure to inform them of their smear test results, a review into the incident has confirmed.

Before the review, the predicted number of women affected was 800, five times lower than the actual figure.

The HSE has made a number of significant announcements in the wake of the publication of the report by Professor Brian MacCraith.

Acting on Dr MacCraith's recommendations in the Rapid Review, a new smear test tracking system which would allow patients to know what stage their test was at, as well as a new structure for Cervical Check, are set to be investigated.

Internal audits are to be implemented for Quest Systems, where the IT glitch occurred, and the development of a national cervical screening centre in Coombe will continue to be accelerated.

Director of the HSE Paul Reid said the organisation was "developing a culture of putting women first".

The HSE says it accepts "entirely" Dr MacCraith's findings.

The HSE also says it will strengthen the management, organisation, resourcing and capability of the CervicalCheck programme, beginning with the selection process for a new CEO for Screening Programmes and the immediate appointment of Ms Celine Fitzgerald as an Interim CEO.

There are currently 3,025 tests at risk of expiry while in a backlog after a delay in reporting results, the review also found.

The consistent theme was frustration from women over delays and lack of information and the decision not to inform women of the IT issue for over six months.

According to the review, within Cervicalcheck there are too few people handling too many significant projects.

Dr MacCraith's review recommends that the HSE act quickly to ensure CervicalCheck becomes a well-structured organisation and recruitment is given the highest priority.

It also recommends recognising the important role of patient representatives and should adopt an International Advisory Group for CervicalCheck to ensure best practice.

Speaking in advance of the report being published, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he retains confidence in Cervicalcheck.

"I do have confidence in the service. CervicalCheck, BreastCheck, our colorectal cancer screening programme work," he said.

"Everyone knows the difference I think at this stage between screening and diagnosis, but we know that those programmes have saved a lot of lives and they have also helped pick up a lot of cancers early, meaning that people got treated earlier.

"But it is never the case that any screening programme can pick up all abnormalities - they almost always miss somewhere around a third."

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