Press Release

Statement by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, on launch of HIQA Statutory Investigation

“Vicky Phelan has done a huge and courageous service to this country in highlighting a number of major weaknesses in relation to how people experience our health service. I am determined that swift action will follow to address these weaknesses.

“Therefore I am now writing to HIQA to request that they commence a Section 9(2) statutory investigation, with all necessary powers, including compellability to examine the CervicalCheck screening programme arising from the issues highlighted by Vicky Phelan. This investigation will place a particular focus on the quality assurance systems, clinical audit processes and the communications with patients. Under the auspices of this statutory investigation an International Peer Review Group will examine the cervical screening programme in Ireland against international best practice and standards. I will be asking HIQA to identify within its terms of reference any implications that may apply to other cancer screening programmes.

In addition I am appointing an International Clinical Expert Panel to provide the women concerned with an individual clinical review. This Clinical Expert Panel will also produce an overall report to inform HIQA’s investigation and the work of the International Peer Review Group. A liaison nurse specialist will co-ordinate the work of the Expert Panel and will identify and ensure the provision of any required supports for the women involved. It is anticipated that the work of the Expert Group will be complete as soon as possible.

I also intend to bring proposals to Government next week to legislate for mandatory open disclosure for serious reportable events.

It is my hope and expectation that these steps will ensure the integrity of the cervical screening programme at the same time as providing learning for all cancer screening programmes. These programmes are an important component of the progress that we have made over the last 10 years in cancer survivorship for our citizens. I am committed to the further development of our cancer services and to delivering the ambitious roadmap set out for these services as outlined in the National Cancer Strategy which I launched last year.”

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

The National Screening Service (NSS) was established in 2007 and encompasses three cancer screening programmes:

• BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme,
• CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme,
• BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme.

The role of the National Screening Service is to:

• Carry out or arrange to carry out a national breast screening service for the early diagnosis and primary treatment of breast cancer in women;
• Carry out or arrange to carry out a national cervical cancer screening service for the early diagnosis and primary treatment of cervical cancer in women;
• Advise on the benefits of carrying out other cancer screening programmes where a population health benefit can be demonstrated;
• Advise the Minister, from time to time, on health technologies, including vaccines, relating to the prevention of cervical cancer;
• Implement special measures to promote participation in its Programmes by disadvantaged people.