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Cancer Screening Programme.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 13 May 2008

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Questions (73, 74)

Denis Naughten


144 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans to roll-out a nationwide bowel cancer screening programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18029/08]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) established an Expert Group on Colorectal Screening to prepare advice on the introduction of a national colorectal cancer programme, specifically on the population to be screened, at what intervals screening should take place, the type of test required and the requirements for a quality assured and well organised cost effective symptomatic service.

The Expert Group was informed by screening programmes in place or planned in other countries, including the UK and Northern Ireland. The Board has received this report and has commissioned a second report on options for service delivery, clinical cost effectiveness and the elements of a well organised and quality assured treatment service. The Service has also requested the Health Information and Quality Authority to conduct a Health Technology Assessment on a colorectal screening programme.

When the Board has assessed all of this advice it will report to me before the end of the year, at which stage I will consider the matter further.

Denis Naughten


145 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans to roll-out a nationwide cervical screening programme; the reason for the ongoing delay in extending the scheme nationwide; her plans to regulate and monitor cervical screening in the private sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18030/08]

View answer

The roll out of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis and is in the final stages of preparations. The service will be available free of charge to all eligible women in Ireland aged 25-60. A national programme will provide screening in a primary care setting every three years for all women aged 25-44 years and screening every five years for women aged 45-60 years. The priority is to establish a national quality assured, organised cervical screening programme and it will be implemented in line with best international practice.

All elements of the programme will be quality assured — call and recall, laboratory testing, colposcopy and will be managed to deliver a single integrated national service. A cytology procurement process is underway. This process commenced in December 2007 and the outcome of this will be finalised shortly.

The vital emphasis of the procurement process has been and will be on quality of the national programme and the necessary entry criteria in choosing a cytology partner included accreditation status and a laboratory dealing with a volume of a minimum of 25,000 smears per annum. These criteria were chosen in line with international acceptable criteria for cervical screening programmes. The NCSS will ensure that the laboratory elements will be delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner and with high quality and acceptable turn-around time for results and so avoid unacceptably long delays for routine cervical smear test results as a priority.

In advance of offering contracts to medical practitioners in primary care settings, the NCSS published a draft NCSS/Smeartaker contract and invited views and feedback concerning the contract on a non-privileged basis by the end of February 2008. Many GPs, Smeartakers and representative bodies participated in this process and provided feedback. The NCSS is in the final stages of discussions on agreement of this contract.