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Absence of a ‘Women First’ approach sums up CervicalCheck saga

  • 221+ welcomes HSE promise of stronger structures and management for Screening Services
  • MacCraith findings on incremental decision making, underestimation of problems and poor communications underpin and elaborate on previous Scally findings
  • Positive recognition for and engagement with patient representatives essential

The conclusion that there was no emphasis on putting ‘women first’ in the attempts to overcome the so-called ‘IT glitch’ that left about 800 women waiting over six months for the results of their cervical screening tests is a sad but succinct summary of the whole CervicalCheck debacle.

We welcome the report of Prof. Brian MacCraith whose work highlights further the critical need for “well structured, strongly led” management of screening services in Ireland.

In his supplementary report published in June this year, Dr. Gabriel Scally highlighted the shortcomings in procurement, governance of contracts and accreditation processes that led to recurring systems failure in CervicalCheck.

By setting out the effect of iterative decisions in that context, Prof MacCraith has highlighted further, and very clearly, the negative knock-on impact of such shortcomings; weak risk management and poor escalation, leading to a breakdown in communications with the primary stakeholders – the women and their GPs.

While it is a relief to know that the clinical risk is deemed to be low for those women caught up in this specific failure, it is clear that there was an inability to ‘join the dots’ as far back as January of this year and that there is still a gap between best intentions and effective delivery.

We note as a positive the immediate indication from the new CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE), Mr. Paul Reid, that he plans to act fully on the recommendations of the review and specifically in terms of strengthening the management of screening services.

We welcome also confirmation that Prof MacCraith’s recommendations will be integrated into the work of the Scally Report Implementation Group, adding nine (9) further to the 58 already within its remit.

In that context we note Prof MacCraith’s observation that “the culture of engagement between patient representatives and the Department of Health is not positive”.  As a Patient Support Group we see significant value from involving the patient voice in ensuring a more positive future for Ireland’s cervical screening programme and the women who need to have confidence in it.  We would hope his recommendation that the role of patient representatives be put on a “more stable footing” is given a priority to further that goal.


For reference:

Padraig McKeon – / 087 2312632