Phase one of the national cervical screening programme has been operating in the Mid-Western Health Board since October 2000. In the interests of best practice and quality assurance, organised screening programmes such as phase one must be based on established tests which have been fully evaluated and whose value is supported by clear evidence. These criteria are set down by the national cancer forum. The test described by the Deputy has not been assessed and therefore there is no basis for recommending its inclusion as a screening test at this point in time.
The national health strategy includes a commitment to extend the programme to the rest of the country. The health boards executive, HeBE, has initiated an examination of the feasibility and implications of a roll-out of the national programme. The work currently being undertaken as part of the roll-out includes an evaluation of phase one, policy development including use of new technologies, and the establishment of national governance arrangements. This work has regard to the experiences gained from the phase one programme and other international programmes as well as current best practice. The evaluation of phase one is a key element in informing the development of a high-quality cervical screening model for Ireland. The evaluation is currently under way and it is anticipated that it will be completed within the next few months. Once completed, HeBE has advised that it will be in a position to prepare a draft roll-out plan.