CervicalCheck - widespread outsourcing found

Sixteen labs used rather than six
  • Deborah Condon

A second report into the CervicalCheck controversy has found that the number of laboratories involved in the screening programme was 'greater than originally thought'.

However, the Supplementary Report of the Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck Programme, led by Dr Gabriel Scally, has also found that the use of additional laboratories did not result in a reduction in the quality of the screening provided to women in Ireland.

The report identified 16 laboratories that were used - two in Ireland, two in the UK and 12 in the US. Originally, just six had been identified. Some of these 16 laboratories are no longer in operation.

The Department of Health insisted that ‘there is no evidence to suggest deficiencies in screening quality in any laboratory'. It said that as such, this should provide ‘further welcome reassurance to Irish women about cervical screening quality'.

However, the report noted that the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) was not aware of this outsourcing.

"The inquiry team found no evidence that any of these laboratories were unaccredited or lacking in quality systems. However, the involvement of at least some of these laboratories does not appear to have been known to the NCSS, they were not named within the contract, and the NCSS had no ability to monitor their accreditation, quality assurance or governance arrangements at the relevant times," the report said.

Speaking at a news conference after the report's publication, Dr Scally said he was shocked that the number of laboratories was so much higher than he had been originally informed.

The figure was also described as 'disturbing' by 221+, the CervicalCheck Patient Support Group.

"While great efforts are being made to address the needs and provide supports to those within the 221+ Patient Support Group, we've not yet had evidence to believe that the wider shortcomings that led to this total system failure are being addressed, and we have said so repeatedly. The report speaks, again, to inexplicable shortcomings," the group said.

Meanwhile, speaking after the publication, CervicalCheck clinical director, Dr Lorraine Doherty, emphasised that cervical screening is not perfect and some women ‘will still develop cervical cancer despite regular screening'. However, she said that she ‘passionately believes in cervical screening and the positive impact it has on the health and lives of women'.

"As Dr Scally said in his report, the continuation of cervical screening is of ‘crucial importance'. Cervical screening can prevent 75% of cervical cancer cases. As a result of our national screening programme, one woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer every two days, while thousands of abnormalities are detected every year.

"We recognise the many challenges faced by CervicalCheck and we are fully committed to addressing these and working to rebuild confidence in our screening programme. We are committed to delivering the best possible cervical screening service for the people in our care and their families," she added.

For more information on 221+, click here.


Discussions on this topic are now closed.