Monday 15 October 2018

Memo for HSE boss warns cervical cancer audit could result in headlines saying: 'screening did not diagnose my cancer'

Tony O'Brien on Merrion Street following a joint committee health meeting on quarterly update health issues in Leinster House, Dublin.
Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tony O'Brien on Merrion Street following a joint committee health meeting on quarterly update health issues in Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

MEMOS prepared for HSE director general Tony O'Brien warned that an audit of cervical screening cases could result in headlines saying, 'screening did not diagnose my cancer'.

The Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been provided with memos prepared by HSE officials for Mr O'Brien in 2016.

Earlier today Mr O'Brien told the committee that a briefing he got in 2016 did not ring alarm bells.

The first memo, dating from March 2016 notes that cervical screening is not 100pc accurate and cannot give a 'yes' or 'no'  answer and a negative screening result does not mean that cancer won't develop in the future.

It says that CervicalCheck initiated an audit process in 2010.

It said that at that as of March 2016 the process was approaching the stage of communicating individual case reports arising from the clinical audit with the clinicians looking after individual women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The memo warns: "There is always a risk that in communicating individual case reports to clinicians of an individual patient reacting by contacting the media if they feel that 'screening did not diagnose my cancer'.

"This is a risk that is inherent in having a clinical audit process," it adds.

"Most importantly during the conduct of the clinical audit to date no systematic quality problem of concern as been idenitfied."

Members of the PAC said they were "shocked" by the contents of the memo.

  • Questions have been asked at the PAC about the end of the March 2016 memo which lists "next steps".

They were:

  • "Pause all letters"
  • "Await advice of solicitors"
  • "Decide on the order and volume of dispatch to mitigate any potential risks"
  • "Continue to prepare reactive communications response for a media headline that 'screening did not diagnose my cancer'"

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