Minister for Health Simon Harris today published the aggregate Report of the Independent Expert Panel Review led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
The Minister said:
I want to pay particular thanks to the Expert Panel who conducted this Review and especially to all of the women and their next of kin who agreed to participate in this thorough examination of the performance of the CervicalCheck programme.
The report finds the CervicalCheck programme is working effectively and crucially that women can have confidence in the programme.
The CervicalCheck Programme has faced a difficult and uncertain period over the past eighteen months. The findings and conclusions contained in this Review should provide reassurance and assist in restoring confidence in our programme and address its importance and quality, as well as the limitations of all screening programmes.
The key conclusions of the Expert Panel are that the CervicalCheck programme has undoubtedly saved the lives of many of those who participated in the Review that the programme is working effectively and that women can have confidence in the programme.
For 308 of the 1,034 participants, the Review found a different cytology result from the original CervicalCheck result. The Expert Panel notes that these findings are in line with those seen in the English screening programme.
The Panel emphasises it is important to recognise the serious impact that screening failures have on the lives of women and their families. However, it also acknowledges that failures are, unfortunately, inevitable given the limitations of cytology-based screening and should not be taken to suggest the programme overall is not working.
While the Review also found that in a small number of cases, there was suboptimal colposcopy management, it concludes that women can have confidence in the clinical standards which apply to the day to day practice of colposcopy across the country.
The Minister said:
If we are to achieve our goal of making cervical cancer a rare disease in this country, it is vital that women continue to attend for screening. It is also why we must continue to build on the considerable progress in other areas over the course of this year, with smear test turnaround times now stabilised and implementation of Dr Scally’s recommendations having been strongly progressed.
In particular, the switch to HPV primary screening is a key plank in helping to eradicate this devastating disease in Ireland. This is why I have today written to the HSE to ask them to consider the recommendations from this Review in the context of this crucial project, and to ensure the successful introduction of HPV primary screening in Quarter 1 next year.
I have also asked the HSE to consider these recommendations in the design and implementation of future systems of audit within our screening programmes.