Monday 23 September 2019

Smear probe 'needed to boost public confidence'

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The number of misread CervicalCheck smear tests among women who developed cervical cancer has been described as "worrying" by medical scientists.

Members of the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association, which represents staff involved in cervical screening, were commenting on the figure of 209 women who received an incorrect smear test result and went on to develop cervical cancer.

They told the Oireachtas Health Committee it is essential that a full investigation is carried out into the laboratories used by CervicalCheck to ensure the public has a full picture of standards and safety.

It comes as the HSE yesterday refused to say whether Prof Gráinne Flannelly, who resigned as clinical director of CervicalCheck, had received an exit package.

A spokeswoman told the Irish Independent that when she was appointed as clinical director for CervicalCheck she was seconded into her post in the National Maternity Hospital Holles Street to work on the screening programme two days a week.

"Prof Flannelly stepped down from that role in recent weeks and the position is currently vacant. The HSE will be seeking to urgently recruit to fill this position over the coming weeks."

Meanwhile, Dr Irene Regan, of the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine, told the committee there shold not be any cost-cutting when a new advanced form of testing is introduced later this year.

The plan is to introduce HPV testing of smears this autumn with a lower failure rate.

Even if there is a decision to transfer screening back to Ireland entirely, it will take a number of years to get enough experienced staff to read all the smears.

"The system chosen for HPV testing must be selected based on the sensitivity of detection, not cost," she said.

"The academy recommends and advises that the cervical screening programme that is put in place for the women of Ireland is quality assured subject to regular independent audit and review against current best practice."

Two of the 209 women, or relatives where the woman is deceased, have not been traced by the HSE. More than 800 of the 11,292 people who called the CervicalCheck helpline are still waiting for a callback.

Irish Independent

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