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Eilish O'Regan: Public trust in the accuracy of screening is crucial

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'It is important there is vigilance if lives are to be saved.' Stock Image

'It is important there is vigilance if lives are to be saved.' Stock Image

'It is important there is vigilance if lives are to be saved.' Stock Image

Public trust in national cancer screening programmes is vital to achieve necessary take-up.

For that reason there must be no cutting corners when it comes to quality assurance, given that no screening is perfect with a 100pc accuracy rate all the time.

It is tragic that 13 patients involved in the BowelScreen programme had their cancers probably missed due to the method of colonoscopy used at Wexford General Hospital, which was not invasive enough.

Take-up of the programme is low. Just 40pc of the 60 to 69-year-olds who are invited to participate avail of the offer. It is as poor as 36pc among men.

However, bowel cancer is one of our most common cancers and is diagnosed in around 2,485 people annually. It causes 1,000 deaths every year.

Lessons must be learned from the missed cancer cases in Wexford.

If there is a fault to be found with the manner in which the cases were reviewed it is the length of time it has taken to complete and publish the review.

It is nearly two years since the Irish Independent first quizzed the HSE about the recall of patients, prompting a public statement.

One man died before the recall.

The review of the colonoscopies, carried out by one consultant, who has been on leave for the past two years, emphasised a number of areas which must be improved to reduce the chances of error.

These include a national quality improvement programme for endoscopy which has to insist on mandatory participation by all hospitals providing colonoscopies under the programme.

There is also a need for greater local audit of colonoscopies and a system whereby there is notification of any interval cancers found in patients between the routine invitation to screening every two years.

A spokeswoman said these are now in place but it is also commissioning an external expert to review the quality assurance measures that have been put in place.

It is important there is vigilance if lives are to be saved.

Irish Independent