Harris meets NSAC for the first time after the cervical check scandal

Roisin Maguire

Image Credit: Px Here

Minister for Health, Simon Harris met with the National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC) for the first time on the 18th of November. 

The NSAC was established after the controversy of the cervical check scandal which involved several women suing the HSE for receiving incorrect smear test results. 

Simon Harris said “We have experts from areas such as the medical profession, the legal profession, health economics, journalism, politics and many more including two members representing the public voice.”

Some members include the chair, Niall Higgins, professor of surgery in UCD, journalist Martina Fitzgerald and Anne Burke and Jillian van Turnhout both representing the public voice.

Higgins said that one of the aims of the committee is “to propose new programmes and to restore public confidence in health screening, a strategy that has been proven to improve survival and reduce ill-health in many potentially serious diseases.”

It was recommended within The Scally Report into the Cervical Check Screening Programme 2018 that the NSAC would advise the Department of Health and the Minister of new proposals for screening and of revisions to current ones.

The most recent development in the Cervical Check scandal found that large numbers of previously missed abnormalities have been uncovered in the review of smear that were undertaken since cervical cancer screening began in Ireland.

This review was led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK and the full extent of individual results in unknown however it is believed that some cancers could have been prevented.

Just over 1,000 women consented to have their slides rechecked and 221 women from the 2018 controversy are involved.  

For women that have been affected, the HSE will provide State support which includes counselling and a medical card. These supports are only available to the 221 women who were affected by the earlier review of smear tests.

However, despite the improvements that this new committee will make, screening is not perfect. According to the Scally Report, for every 1,000 women screened, about 20 will have precancerous changes. The problem with this is that the smear test will only detect 15 out of these 20 women therefore 5 women with precancerous cells will be left undetected.

Currently, the Supreme Court are deciding whether screeners should have absolute confidence that a smear test has no abnormalities before giving it the all clear.

Roisin Maguire

Image Credit: Px Here