Tuesday 22 October 2019

UK cancer test lab will still be used, despite Scally concern

Voiced his concerns: Dr Gabriel Scally’s latest report highlighted the use of a UK lab in Salford, Manchester, to examine smear tests from Ireland. Picture: PA
Voiced his concerns: Dr Gabriel Scally’s latest report highlighted the use of a UK lab in Salford, Manchester, to examine smear tests from Ireland. Picture: PA

Eilish O'Regan and John Downing

CervicalCheck said it will continue to send smear tests to the small UK laboratory that was not independently assessed for safety for three years, despite the concerns of Dr Gabriel Scally.

The lab in Salford, Manchester, which has just four staff, was among 10 centres which Dr Scally found were used to read tests from Ireland unknown to CervicalCheck. It operated for two years reading smears from Ireland until CervicalCheck discovered its existence last October.

Dr Scally made it clear in his report he was concerned that "such remote working by a single or very small number of health professionals should be avoided".

The Manchester lab, overseen by Medlab in Dublin, began with one lab scientist in 2016 and only received accreditation two months ago despite reading hundreds of smear tests from Ireland.

However, Dr Lorraine Doherty, clinical director of CervicalCheck, said she recognised Dr Scally's concerns in relation to the accreditation process of MedLab Pathology's Salford facility.

But she added: "Dr Scally confirms that 'on the basis of the information available to the scoping inquiry, the use of these additional laboratories did not in fact result in a reduction in the quality of the screening provided to Irish women and it is important to acknowledge this'.

"This concurs with our ongoing performance monitoring in regard to Medlab Pathology. The performance of MedLab, including the Salford facility, has always been within acceptable standards for cytology.

"Since we were made aware, in October 2018, of the existence of the Salford facility, we have reviewed the data from this laboratory separately and, over the last two quarters, have found that it remains within acceptable standards."

Asked about Medlab's future with CervicalCheck, a spokesman for the company said "it is focused on clearing the test backlog at the moment".

Medlab told Dr Scally that its statement to his 2018 inquiry, that it only used the UK facility as a "contingency lab", was erroneous. All four staff in Manchester have their outcomes recorded in the Dublin centre.

The HSE declined to say how many tests are being processed by the Manchester lab. It said: "Cervical screening can prevent 75pc of cervical cancer cases. As a result of our screening programme, one woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer every two days."

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Health Committee agreed the legislation setting up a tribunal to hear claims from women taking cases against CervicalCheck can bypass committee stage.

The tribunal will hear legal claims from women for next- of-kin alleging negligence in private. The same standard of proof as the High Court will be required.

In the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about Dr Scally's call for a no-fault compensation scheme .

The Taoiseach said a no-fault scheme was currently being examined - but he added it means lower awards, and nobody is held to account.

Irish Independent

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