Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Questions (101)

Alan Kelly


101. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health the date a person (details supplied) found out that a laboratory in Manchester was not accredited to perform cervical cancer screening; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27724/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In the Supplementary Report of the Scoping Inquiry, which was published on 11 June, Dr. Scally confirmed that the number of laboratories involved in CervicalCheck work was greater than was originally thought, 16 in total, and the use of many of these laboratories was not approved in advance by CervicalCheck, nor was it known to it. The report also finds that, on the basis of the information available to the Inquiry, the use of additional laboratories did not result in a reduction of the quality of the screening provided to Irish women and there is no evidence to suggest deficiencies in screening quality in any laboratory.

As the Deputy is aware, Dr. Scally expressed concern about accreditation in relation to one laboratory in Salford, UK. This is ancillary to the main MedLab facility in Dublin. The performance data of this ancillary lab was included in that reviewed by the Inquiry in mid-2018, when it concluded that there was no reason, on quality grounds, why existing contracts for laboratory services should not continue. The Inquiry notes this lab has also been subject to a quality assurance visit by HSE staff. The provision of screening by this laboratory is being phased out, noting that MedLab is now focused on clearing its backlog of slides, and all new slides being read by either Quest Diagnostics or the Coombe. Accreditation is one important element in providing assurance about quality, of course, but notwithstanding that there is a concern about accreditation, the key issue is whether there was any deficiency in screening quality. Dr. Scally says there is no evidence of any such deficiency.

I am not aware of the specific dates involved in relation to the accreditation of the laboratory in Manchester and I would emphasise the independence of Dr Scally's work in this regard. However, when the Deputy raised this issue at Dáil statements on 19 June, I undertook to follow up with Dr Scally on the Deputy's behalf. I have been advised that Dr. Scally wrote to the Deputy on 23 June to provide an answer to his queries.