Belfast Telegraph

Smear test results IT glitch affected more than 4,000 women, review finds

Before the review, the predicted number of women affected was 800, five times lower than the actual figure.

The predicted number of women affected was 800 (David Davies/PA)
The predicted number of women affected was 800 (David Davies/PA)

More than 4,000 Irish women have been affected by an IT glitch which led to a failure to inform them of their smear test results, a review into the incident has confirmed.

The delays related to a Quest Diagnostics laboratory based at Chantilly in Virginia in the US which processed tests for the Health Service Executive’s CervicalCheck programme.

In July, Professor Brian MacCraith was asked to examine the series of events that led to the delay in a Rapid Review.

Before the review, the predicted number of women affected was 800, five times lower than the actual figure.

The issue related to the results of 4,088 samples that were sent to the US for testing. Those included around 3,200 backlog samples that had been at risk of expiry prior to being examined in the facility in Virginia.

The consistent theme was frustration from women over delays and lack of information and the decision not to inform women of the IT issue for more than six months.

Prof MacCraith said: “My engagement with this review caused me to discover multiple examples of women in person, via social media, parliamentary questions frustrated not only by delays in receiving their results but more so by the lack of any clarifying or contextual information.”

He added that within Cervical Check there were “too few people managing too many significant projects simultaneously”.

Prof MacCraith recommended that the HSE act quickly to ensure CervicalCheck becomes a well-structured organisation and recruitment is given the highest priority.

His review also recommends recognising the important role of patient representatives and should adopt an International Advisory Group for CervicalCheck to ensure best practice.

The HSE made a number of significant announcements in the wake of the publication on Tuesday, and said it accepts “entirely” Prof MacCraith’s findings.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid apologised to the more than 4,000 women affected by delays.

He said: “There has been significant concern caused to a lot of women needlessly and I’m really sorry that undue concern has happened. I sincerely apologise to all of the women concerned.”

Mr Reid said he not only accepted the findings of the report in their entirely, but he also wanted to embrace them all, implement them and go beyond them.

He added that he wanted to develop “a culture of putting women first” within the health service.

Acting on Prof MacCraith’s recommendations, a new smear test tracking system which would allow patients to know what stage their test was at, as well as a new structure for CervicalCheck, are set to be investigated.

Internal audits are to be implemented for Quest Systems, where the IT glitch occurred, and the development of a national cervical screening centre at Coombe Women’s Hospital will continue to be accelerated.

The HSE also said it will strengthen the management, organisation, resourcing and capability of the CervicalCheck programme, beginning with the selection process for a new chief executive for screening programmes and the immediate appointment of Celine Fitzgerald as an interim CEO.

PA

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