Sunday 26 May 2019

CervicalCheck pays almost €7m a year to three screening labs

Vicky Phelan Picture: Steve Humphreys
Vicky Phelan Picture: Steve Humphreys

Eilish O'Regan and Cormac McQuinn

CervicalCheck is paying out nearly €7m a year to the three labs contracted to carry out screening, new documents reveal.

The bulk of the huge funding goes to Quest Diagnostics in New Jersey in the US, and Medlab in Dublin, with the lowest paid to the Coombe Hospital lab.

The documents reveal how CervicalCheck sought extensions of contracts last year and also indicated it would be introducing HPV testing of smear testing in October 2018. However, the Irish Independent reported earlier this week the roll out of the HPV testing, which would reduce the chances of errors, is now being delayed.

The documents, given by the HSE to the Public Accounts Committee, reveal that no mention was made, in correspondence extending contracts, to the 209 women whose smear tests were incorrectly read and whose cases were known to CervicalCheck in 2016.

They included Vicky Phelan, the Limerick mother-of-two, who developed cervical cancer in 2014 after getting the all clear in 2011.

According to CervicalCheck, the documents show that high numbers of smears were analysed by each of the labs annually.

It said that the false negative rates were in line with best international practice.

It said there had to be allowance for some demographic variations across the population for which the labs were testing.

Meanwhile, the search has begun for a new clinical director of CervicalCheck.

When the controversy broke in April the previous director Dr Grainne Flannelly resigned.

The HSE job advert said candidates for the post must have at least seven years' experience in the practice of the medical profession, including at least four years' experience in their relevant specialty.

They must have a "high standard of professional attainment" as well as the requisite knowledge and ability, including a high standard of suitability, for the proper discharge of the duties of the office.

It said the doctor must "lead on clinical advice on the screening pathway and support clinical governance and quality improvement within the CervicalCheck services".

"The post holder will be responsible for medical advice with regard to the CervicalCheck programme including building, motivating and developing clinical relationships to drive forward improvements in the commissioning and provision of national screening services.

"The post holder will be responsible for ensuring patient input to the design and operation of the screening programme."

The chosen doctor will be a member of the CervicalCheck management team, the executive management team, quality assurance committee and the clinical advisory group for CervicalCheck.

The director will have to provide senior clinical input to these committees "so that key decisions are clinically appropriate and informed".

CervicalCheck had audit reports on 209 women in 2016 confirming they received an incorrect result in 2016.

Irish Independent

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