In September, Government accepted all 50 of the recommendations that were set out in Dr Scally’s report into CervicalCheck, which was published on the 12th of September. I then committed to returning to Government within three months as recommended by Dr Scally with a full plan for the implementation of these recommendations. That plan was published on the 11th of December on my Department’s website. Work is now underway in my Department, in the HSE and in the National Cancer Registry of Ireland on the range of actions within the Plan.
The Implementation Plan sets out 126 actions addressing Dr Scally’s recommendations, across the areas of women and women’s health, organisation and governance, laboratory services and procurement, open disclosure, cancer registration, other screening programmes and resolution.
As the Deputy will be aware, I have also asked the HSE to introduce HPV testing as the primary screening method for the prevention of cervical cancer. The HPV test is a more accurate testing mechanism than liquid-based cytology, which is the current primary testing mechanism. This is expected to reduce the number of false negatives, although false negatives will always be part of any cervical screening programme. Its introduction is in line with developments in cervical screening internationally.
In addition, following the announcement by the Health Information and Quality Authority that the proposed extension of the HPV vaccination programme to boys will be both clinically and cost effective, in December 2018 I confirmed the extension of vaccination to boys.
Funding to implement the switch to HPV screening, and extend HPV vaccination to boys, has been allocated in Budget 2019.
The Government’s goal is to bring about the near elimination of cervical cancer in Ireland. A well organised screening programme, when combined with HPV vaccination for boys and girls, will assist us in achieving that goal.