Healthcare news

150 women recalled over 'possible shortcomings' in cervical smear tests

One hundred and fifty women have been recalled amid "possible shortcomings" in their cervical smears, the Public Health Agency (PHA) said.

The tests were carried out by one healthcare worker at two doctors' practices in Belfast and concerns relate to the technique used.

Cervical screening aims to prevent cancer and the recall is a precautionary step, health chiefs said.

Dr Tracy Owen, consultant in public health medicine and cervical screening lead at the PHA, said: "We understand that the women who are receiving these letters may be anxious, but we would like to reassure them that this is a precautionary measure and would urge them to accept the invitation for a repeat test."

The issue was identified within a GP practice through good vigilance, monitoring and audit processes, the health service said.

A review team was established by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and PHA and 150 women registered with Abbott's Cross Practice in Newtownabbey and Dr McKenna's Practice in Thames Street, Belfast, have been sent invitations by their GPs for a repeat test.

A statement said: "The PHA and HSCB have been made aware of possible shortcomings in the technique used to take cervical screening tests (commonly referred to as cervical smears) at two GP practices.

"This issue affects a small number of women whose tests were taken by one particular healthcare worker."

Women aged 25-49 are routinely invited for cervical screening every three years, and those aged 50-64 are invited every five years.

All GP practices and individual cervical sample-takers are expected to perform a regular audit of their screening results using standard quality markers to ensure quality is maintained.

Nurses and midwifes are required to undertake an appropriate education programme prior to undertaking a role as a sample-taker and participate in regular update training.

In the Republic of Ireland a number of women died after being given incorrect smear test results by the national cervical cancer screening programme.

The scandal led to the resignation of Ireland's health service chief, Tony O'Brien.

In Northern Ireland thousands of patients of neurology consultant Dr Michael Watt were recalled amid concerns some may have been misdiagnosed.

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