The HSE Serious Incident Management Team (SIMT) has been working to respond to the failings revealed by the CervicalCheck audit and are releasing a daily report to outline and provide a progress update on the response to this situation.
CervicalCheck carried out an audit of women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer over the last 10 years, after their cancer was notified to CervicalCheck. Not all of these women were told about the audit or that, in some cases, the audit found that their screening test could have provided a different result and recommended earlier follow-up.
Hospitals have been working since the SIMT was established to contact all the women affected and to discuss the audit with them. There were 209 cases where’s women’s tests could have provided a different result and contact has been made with 198 women, although this figure is expected to increase following the Bank Holiday weekend.
In a video released by the HSE that had reached 5,215 views, as of Sunday (5th May), Dr Peter McKenna, Clinical Director of Women & Infants Health, apologised for the confusion and public concern that is now surrounding the screening programme.
He stated: “We know that the programme as it is currently running is saving lives and will continue to save more if people continue to present for their smears, as they should”, adding that he had every faith in the laboratories to which the smears are sent, as they are all accredited to international standards.
The HSE is working with the National Cancer Registry of Ireland and the Department of Health to identify any other women who had cervical cancer during this time, who may also have had a CervicalCheck test. Reconciliation of data on relevant cases is currently ongoing between CervicalCheck and NCRI.
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The figures highlight the level of concern among women following the failures in communication about this audit: there have been 160,091 visits to CervicalCheck.ie since April 25th, 515,027 page view,s and approximately 7000 SMS issued since May 3rd.
In the interest of amending this, an information line was set-up from April 28th, which offers women the facility to receive a call back from a member of HSE clinical staff.
The HSE has stressed that their call team remains extremely busy, and women with specific clinical queries or a history of cervical cancer continue to be their priority. Calls are also being returned to women following “a careful exercise of checking records, checking data quality and assigning calls to health professionals”. To date, 1,962 calls have been returned to women.
The clinical advice is that women who have had normal test results in the past can continue to participate in the cervical screening programme according to their normal schedule, and women with a history of normal test results are advised to read the information on cervicalcheck.ie and to make contact with their GP if they remain concerned.
CervicalCheck has issued an update to GPs and smear-takers participating in the programme, and to colposcopy clinics and cancer centres nationwide.