Wednesday 17 October 2018

Individual doctors could face investigation over CervicalCheck scandal

John Connaghan, interim director general at the HSE. Photo: Frank McGrath
John Connaghan, interim director general at the HSE. Photo: Frank McGrath
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Individual doctors could face investigation over their roles in the CervicalCheck controversy.

Dr Rita Doyle, president of the Medical Council, said yesterday the regulatory body had written to the interim director-general of the HSE, John Connaghan, requesting any information from HSE reports into the scandal that are relevant to the council's remit.

"If there are issues around professional performance or conduct relating to individual doctors, they will be investigated and dealt with by the Medical Council in a fair manner according to our procedures and regulatory powers," Dr Doyle said. She also said there was a concern at the levels of "inaccurate information" circulating following the emergence of the controversy.

Concern has been raised about public confidence falling in the screening services due to confusion about its efficacy.

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"The fact is cancer screening saves lives every week. However, screening is not a diagnostic exercise and there is an acceptable norm of false negative and indeed false positive results," she said.

"Women should be encouraged to take part in the screening process in the full knowledge that it is a screening test and not a diagnostic one."

Dr Doyle also said instances where repeat smears had not been processed in the six-week window necessary for a smear to be read - leading to a need for a woman to have another test - were "unacceptable to both patients and doctors".

The National Association of General Practitioners has raised concern that a backlog caused by a spike in women receiving repeat smears is causing some smear samples to be not read in time.

The HSE has said that was an issue only in a "small number" of cases and that "all efforts" were being made to avoid circumstances where smears need to be retaken.

Meanwhile, the HSE said a decision to move to a three- or five-year recall for tests ahead of the roll-out of the national screening programme was based on EU recommendations and UK best practice.

Prior to the establishment of the national screening programme in 2008, a regional programme was run in the mid-west. When first established, women who had a smear test were recalled in one year if their test showed no abnormalities.

In 2004, the World Heath Organisation revised its advice on screening intervals to three years for younger women and every five years for older women. The policy was also endorsed by the International Agency for Cancer Research.

A report from that year, which looked at the first phase of the screening programme, recommended the one-year recall be ended ahead of a national screening programme.

The HSE said the change was in line with "EU recommendations and clinical practice in programmes in the UK".

Irish Independent

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