Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (441, 443)

Bríd Smith

Question:

441. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 322 and 323 of 24 September 2019, if the fact that the HSE has established an expert group to review clinical audit of interval cancers is a reference to a review (details supplied) or a different expert group. [51731/19]

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Bríd Smith

Question:

443. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health if, following the Scally report and a review (details supplied), he will recommence the CervicalCheck audit that has been paused since May 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51750/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 441 and 443 together.

Since 2010, as part of quality assurance measures, CervicalCheck reviewed the screening history of every woman notified to it as having a diagnosis of cervical cancer, who had previously been screened by the programme. The objective of audit and quality review at CervicalCheck was to facilitate continued improvement and ongoing learning within the programme. Following the issues which arose in relation to the non-disclosure of audit findings, a decision was taken to pause the audit.

The Scoping Inquiry led by Dr Gabriel Scally made a number of recommendations, one of which was that “Audit should continue to be an important component of cervical screening as this complies with all good clinical practice. Common, robust and externally validated approaches to the design, conduct, evaluation and oversight of audits should be developed across the screening services.” (Recommendation 26).

This recommendation was accepted by Government, as were all of Dr Scally's recommendations. Actions to implement these recommendations were set out in an implementation plan which was approved by Government and is published on the website of my Department.

As set out in the implementation plan, the HSE has established an Expert Group within the National Screening Service to review the clinical audit processes for interval cancers across all screening programmes. This is separate to the work of the Independent Expert Panel Review led by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG Review). The Expert Group, which includes two patient representatives, will develop a report setting out recommendations for the operation of clinical audit processes across all screening programmes. The Expert Group is expected to complete its work at the end of this year, following which its recommendations will be implemented by the HSE. I expect that the detail requested by the Deputy regarding the timing of the recommencement of the audit will be informed by the Expert Group's work and this detail will become available once that work is complete.