Cervical Screening Review statement 09.02.24
9th February 2024
“We fully acknowledge the concerns that this precautionary review has caused for local women. We understand that some women have ongoing queries and our senior staff have met with these women and their public representatives frequently over recent months to provide reassurance and address specific questions.
“Trust senior managers recently attended the All Party Group on Cancer meeting to again respond to the women’s concerns directly and offer reassurance to both them and our elected representatives.
“We also continue to provide personalised patient support via our helpline, dedicated email and via our specialist patient liaison team. The safety and wellbeing of women in the review is our priority.
“We are committed to delivering a comprehensive process which is adequately funded to ensure that previous smear test results provided were correct or, where no slide is available to review, that women are offered a smear to assess their current risk.
“This is a complex process involving thousands of women and as stated at the outset, it will take a number of months to complete. We are continuing to work with the Public Health Agency and other Trusts to ensure that the review is carried out as quickly and comprehensively as possible and that robust governance arrangements are followed at all times. All the Trust laboratories participating in the review are fully accredited.
“Both the slide review and the repeat smear clinics are continuing to run simultaneously and the Trust provides regular progress updates on a dedicated page on our website Cervical screening services review update 25 January 2024 | Southern Health & Social Care Trust (hscni.net)
“In December 2023, The Northern Ireland Cervical Screening programme introduced full primary HPV testing into the cervical screening pathway. HPV primary screening is a more sensitive test. This means it is better at detecting cell changes overall, as well as detecting them earlier. Where cell changes are detected, women will then undergo a cytology review. The introduction of primary HPV will enable results to be delivered for most women much more quickly. Over 99.7 per cent of cervical cancers are associated with persistent infection with HPV, so screening using HPV testing first is a more effective way of identifying those women who require further follow up. Work is also ongoing to finalise how to address the backlog of cases in a timely and appropriate manner, and this should be resolved shortly.
“At the start of this review the Trust said that it anticipated that for the majority of women involved in the Review, their result will not change. Whilst it is still too early in the process to be definitive, early indications show that to date, only a very small number have had low grade abnormalities – which is to be expected and not a concern. As yet there have been “no high-grade abnormalities” detected, which are cases that could progress to cancer if left unchecked or untreated.”