Press Release

Tánaiste asks HSE for implementation plan for roll out of cervical screening

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, today (Tuesday 7 February 2006), stated that she is fully committed to the national roll out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice.

The Health Service Executive has been requested to prepare a detailed implementation plan for a national programme. 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.

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 Tánaiste stated that an additional €9m has been made available to the Executive for cancer services development in 2006, including the continuation of preparations for the roll out.

“I consider that the programme should be best rolled out in the primary care setting, subject to affordable and acceptable arrangements being agreed. A review of the contractual arrangements for the provision by general practitioners of publicly-funded primary care services is being conducted at present, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission and I have asked that the general practitioner elements of a national cervical screening programme be tabled at these discussions. Any remuneration arrangements agreed must be capable of delivering a high uptake among women. Payments must be primarily based on reaching acceptable targets.”

The Tánaiste said she is convinced that we must also have in place tailored initiatives to encourage take up among disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups.

“I want to see the programme rolled out as quickly as possible but only when the essential infrastructure, organisation and services are in place that are quality assured and meet international standards.”