Expert Panel Review of Cervical Screening

Last updated: 29/03/2019

In May 2018, the Minister for Health commissioned an independent Expert Panel Review of Cervical Screening, as part of the response to issues concerning CervicalCheck – The HSE National Cervical Screening Programme.

The review is being led by an Expert Panel of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the UK, with expertise also sourced through the British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. 

The review is being conducted independently of the HSE. The HSE’s role in this process is to logistically support the Expert Panel in completing its work. A significant amount of work has been completed by the HSE to facilitate the RCOG review, which is outlined below.

Purpose

The purpose of the review is to provide women who participated in CervicalCheck and who developed cervical cancer (including microinvasive) with independent clinical assurance about the timing of their diagnosis and treatment. The Expert Panel will endeavour to determine, wherever possible, any failures to prevent cancer or to intervene at an earlier stage.

The Expert Panel will prepare individual written summary reports for those women affected, setting out the facts and their expert and independent assessment of those facts.

An aggregated or summary report will also be made to the Minister for Health for publication when the review is complete. It will include recommendations, where appropriate, with the aim of improving care for women. 

Timeframe

The Expert Panel has indicated that it will take at least six months, from when the analysis of the slides begins, to complete the review and the individual reports for each woman whose case is reviewed. The physical transfer of slides has commenced and the receiving laboratory in the UK started to receive slides on behalf of the RCOG in February 2019.

Consent process

In light of the particular sensitivities surrounding this issue, the CervicalCheck Steering Committee decided that written, informed consent would be sought from women, or the next-of-kin of women who have passed away, before they were included in the review. The Minister for Health established the CervicalCheck Steering Committee to provide oversight and assurance on the implementation of key decisions taken by Government in relation to CervicalCheck.

The process of identifying women eligible for the review was a complex and detailed process involving engagement and data collection from three sources: the HSE National Screening Service, the HSE Acute Hospital Division and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland. The HSE also engaged with other clinical stakeholders in attaining relevant data.

To date the HSE has issued over 1,700 letters seeking consent and over 1,000 consents to participate have been received; this represents a consent rate of 63%. In order to facilitate the review to commence, the consent process was closed on 15th February 2019.

Information line

The HSE established a dedicated information line to address any queries or concerns from women invited to take part in the review and their families. This Freephone line is open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm.

Movement of slides

The HSE has been engaging closely with the laboratories concerned on the significant logistical requirements necessary to ensure the transfer of slides as quickly as is practicable.

It is in interests of the review, and most importantly women and their families, that this process is conducted in a safe and respectful manner that protects the integrity of the slides involved. 

The physical transfer of slides has commenced and the receiving laboratory in the UK started to receive slides on behalf of the RCOG in February 2019.

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