Belfast Telegraph

Women can have confidence in cervical cancer screening, TDs told

Dr Gabriel Scally described the Cervical Check screening programme as good and said it had produced real results.

Dr Gabriel Scally (Niall Carson/PA)
Dr Gabriel Scally (Niall Carson/PA)

Women can have confidence in the country’s cervical cancer screening programme despite recent controversy, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Dr Gabriel Scally, who has been conducting an independent inquiry into smear test audit results, described the Cervical Check screening programme as good and said it had produced real results.

But he said the controversy over the non-disclosure of audit results had “damaged” the patient relationship with clinicians.

“It is worthwhile reinforcing that it is a good programme and that it has produced real results and also that the potential is great for it to produce really outstanding results,” Dr Scally told the health committee.

“Ironically almost as a result of the attention that’s been paid to it over the last couple of years… if there is criticism about the programme is not about the principle of the programme at all, or even the general operation of the programme. It’s about the way this particular issue was handled.”

He added that the programme “stands up well” internationally.

The Government last year tasked Dr Scally with reviewing the cases of more than 200 women who were not informed that their smear test results had produced false negative results.

Dr Scally was before the health committee on Thursday to discuss a recent report which found that the number of laboratories, where slides had been outsourced to, was 16 and not six as he had been originally informed.

Fianna Fail TD Stephen Donnelly said there were “an awful lot of women” across the country whose confidence in the programme had been “shaken” by the controversy.

He also said he was “shocked” when the number of labs involved rose from six to 16.

Asked by Mr Donnelly whether the non-disclosure of audit results had affected the clinical outcome for the women involved, Dr Scally said he did not believe it had as they were already in treatment for cervical cancer.

But he said it had negatively impacted the relationship between women and their doctors.

“Women felt betrayed really, in some cases they were lied to and that damaging of patient-clinician relationship is deeply unhelpful,” he said.

Labour TD Alan Kelly questioned Dr Scally about the quality assurance checks in place and how many of the laboratories the inquiry had visited.

Dr Scally said nine of the 16 laboratories had been visited.

TDs and senators heard the remaining seven laboratories had not been visited by the team because a number had been closed and the others had not received many Irish slides.



From Belfast Telegraph