Press Release

Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D., appoints Board of New National Cancer Screening Service

The Minister for Health and Children has today appointed the first Board of the National Cancer Screening Service.  The new Service amalgamates BreastCheck and the Irish Cervical Screening Programme to deliver both programmes nationally and has a budget of over €32m in 2007.

The Minister said “The establishment of this Service is an important element of my Department’s response to the National Strategy for Cancer Control.  The Service will maximise the expertise in both programmes, ensure improved efficiency and develop a single governance model for cancer screening.  The Service will also advise in relation to other cancer screening programmes, including colorectal cancer screening.”

The Minister has appointed the following members to the Board of the National Cancer Screening Service:

  • Dr. Sheelah Ryan, Chairperson
  • Dr. Gráinne Flannelly, Consultant Obstetrician Gynaecologist, National Maternity Hospital, Holles St.
  • Dr. Marie Laffoy, Assistant National Director of Population Health, HSE
  • Ms. Edel Moloney, Consumer Representative
  • Mr. Jack Murray, PR Consultant
  • Dr. Ailis Ní Riain, Director of Women’s Health, ICGP
  • Professor Martin O’ Donoghue, Former Professor of Economics, TCD
  • Professor Niall O’Higgins, Consultant Surgeon, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin
  • Dr. Donie Ormonde, Consultant Radiologist, Waterford Regional Hospital
  • Mr. Eamonn Ryan, former Executive Director of the IDA with responsibility for overseas operations
  • Dr. Frank Sullivan, Director of Radiation Oncology, University College Hospital, Galway, Senior lecturer in Medicine NUI Galway
  • Dr. Jane Wilde, Director, Institute of Public Health in Ireland


The complete national rollout of Breastcheck to the South and West of the country will begin in the Spring of this year.  Additional revenue funding of €8m has been allocated this year to meet the additional costs of the national roll-out, bringing BreastCheck’s revenue budget to €21.7m in 2007.  An additional 69 posts have been approved and recruitment is underway.  The Minister has also made available an additional €26.7m capital funding to BreastCheck for the construction of two new clinical units, five additional mobile units and the provision of state of the art digital equipment. Construction commenced on both static sites in Cork and Galway in early November.

Cumulatively from the commencement of screening in February 2000 to August 2006, BreastCheck has diagnosed and arranged treatment for 1,867 women with breast cancer.  60,000 women were screened in 2005 which represents a 19% increase over 2004 and 318 cancers were detected in 2005.

Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP)
The Minister decided last year to examine a national cervical screening programme in 2007.  From January 2001 to end December 2006, approx. 57,000 women attended for screening in the pilot cervical screening programme in the Mid-West.   Additional revenue funding of €5.0m has been allocated this year in line with the Minister’s commitment to commence roll-out of the ICSP this year, based on an affordable model and international best practice.  Significant preparatory work is well underway, involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register.

The plan is to have cervical screening managed as a national call/recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money.  All elements of the programme, call/recall, smear taking, laboratories and treatment services must be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service.  The National Cancer Screening Service will ensure that the laboratory elements will be delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner that ensures high quality and good turn around time for results.  The programme will include tailored initiatives to encourage take up among disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups.

In parallel with the roll-out of the ICSP, we like other jurisdictions will examine the potential role of HPV vaccination.  In Ireland we have a significant opportunity to assess the vaccination in advance of a national roll out.  Issues to be examined include the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the vaccine, categories of women who should be vaccinated, immunity duration and booster requirements and the implications for the national screening programme.  The National Cancer Screening Service will be asked to advise on an integrated approach that reflects evidenced based priorities.