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HSE boss says it's 'awful' women weren't told of CervicalCheck results as review finds 4,000+ cases

The review was published this afternoon.

HSE CEO Paul Reid (left) with Prof Brian MacCraith at today's press conference
HSE CEO Paul Reid (left) with Prof Brian MacCraith at today's press conference
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Aug 6th 2019, 4:38 PM

A RAPID REVIEW report into the CervicalCheck IT issue has identified 4,088 cases being affected by the problem.

The issue meant that women who had smear tests were not given the results of them through a combination of human error and IT failings. 

The review found that in 873 of the cases no letters about test results were issued to the women or their GPs.

In the remaining 3,215 cases the results were issued to GPs but not to the women concerned.

Brian MacCraith, the President of Dublin City University, carried out the review on behalf of the HSE.

It found that the Quest Diagnostics Chantilly Lab in Virginia was added as a CervicalCheck test facility without proper operational due diligence and risk mitigation.

A systems failure then meant women weren’t told of their results. Rather than an IT “glitch”, MacCraith found that there were “compatibility issues” that meant that the IT systems began to rely on “manual workarounds”, which made failure “almost inevitable”. 

An observation made in the report is that “there is an absence of clear lines of authority and clarity of role responsibilities within CervicalCheck”. 

Another of MacCraith’s ‘major findings’ was that throughout the review there was a “constant theme” of women frustrated by poor service and lack of information. 

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, MacCraith said that perhaps the “most significant” impact from the IT problem was that many women waiting for test results received no communication for a period of six months.

6270 Cervical Report Professor Brian MacCraith speaking to the media on Tuesday. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

HSE CEO Paul Reid said this afternoon that “a process” is currently under way to inform all the women affected, and this is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. He also stressed that these women were designated “low risk cases”.

“I really regret and apologise it happened to the women,” Reid said. “I wish it was different.”

Last month it was revealed that approximately 800 women who had repeat HPV tests didn’t receive their results due to an IT issue at the Virginia lab.

At the time Health Minister Simon Harris said he was unaware of the IT issue until 10 July. The review says that “it can be deduced” that his first knowledge of the issue came in a daily briefing on that day. 

‘Women first’

The recommendations from the review included that the HSE needed to amend its management practices with CervicalCheck, adopt a “women first” approach and accelerated progress towards the establishment of a national laboratory for cervical testing. 

“This will remove Ireland’s current high risk dependence on a single outsourced supplier,” MacCraith said of the latter recommendation. 

MacCraith also noted that there was a low clinical risk in the cases of these women not told about their results. 

HSE CEO Reid apologised today after MacCraith outlined his findings, and said he was seeking to implement his recommendations swiftly.

This includes developing a culture in the HSE of putting women first. This would be done through engagement with patient reps and ensuring the patient and public partnership strategy currently being developed incorporates putting women first. 

Reid said a new CEO of screening would be hired with the task of addressing issues within CervicalCheck as a matter of priority. 

He added he’d been advised by Quest Diagnostics that IT solutions to prevent this happening again are in place, but a supplementary audit would confirm this. 

With reporting by Sean Murray

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