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HIQA has made 11 recommendations in a review of information management practices at the national breast cancer screening service, BreastCheck, published this week. This review was undertaken in order to assess compliance with the Information management standards for national health and social care data collections within BreastCheck, which is one of four screening programmes within the National Screening Service.

Rachel Flynn, HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, stated that the shortcomings were predominantly in relation to governance structures at BreastCheck that could potentially compromise the quality of the screening service.

She commented: “To ensure the best outcomes for women undergoing breast screening, it is important that BreastCheck implements the 11 recommendations made by HIQA today. Implementing these recommendations will not only have benefits for BreastCheck but also the other three screening programmes within the National Screening Service.

“While progress to improve the governance structures of the National Screening Service had commenced, these governance structures need to be clearly defined in relation to information management within the organisation. HIQA recommends that the National Screening Service should implement an appropriate governance structure in order to effectively address information management within BreastCheck, as well as developing both a strategy and performance assurance framework for information management”.

HIQA has claimed that information management for screening services such as BreastCheck is crucial for the creation of a comprehensive service, which can only be delivered if the programme has a complete and accurate population register. Information needs to be managed correctly as the process of screening generates large volumes of personal health information, relying on accurate documentation and communication of information. It is important that the service operates smoothly so that women attending screening will receive timely, efficient and effective care should cancer be detected.

Ms Flynn continued: “The review found that while BreastCheck is undertaking a significant amount of work to improve the quality of the data collected within the screening units, the development of an overarching data quality framework to enhance this ongoing work further is required. In addition, information governance arrangements need to be strengthened to ensure adherence to relevant policies and procedures and compliance with legislation, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“BreastCheck is an extremely valuable national health data collection. Internationally it is recognised that the appropriate sharing and effective use of information can bring enormous benefits. In line with this, HIQA recommends that BreastCheck should make data and information more accessible in a timely manner to all stakeholders, including women using the service.

“Complying with the Information Management Standards will improve the quality of national health information and data, which will ultimately contribute to the delivery of safe and reliable health and social care in Ireland. Compliance with these standards will help to instil confidence in patients, clinicians and all other stakeholders that healthcare decisions are based on high-quality information, the availability of which will ultimately improve patient safety”.