Northern Ireland: concerns about cervical screening results – Community Practitioner

Around 17,000 smear tests to be reviewed after abnormalities may have been missed, says Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

This comes after Southern Trust laboratory staff expressed concerns about some steps of the screening system in 2022. A further risk assessment report from the Royal College of Pathologists said that while most negative results were correct, there was reason to believe a ‘significant number’ of women are likely to have had negative results that would have been identified as abnormal in other laboratories.

In most cases, Southern Trust will be able to review a previous smear test. However, some women will need to attend a further examination.

Southern Trust Medical Director, Dr Stephen Austin said:

‘The Southern Trust is very conscious of the anxiety this report may cause to women. As medical director, I apologise on behalf of the trust for what has happened.

‘Today we are issuing personal letters to all of the women potentially affected. The vast majority of women screened by the Southern Trust over this period will be unaffected and therefore if you do not receive a letter from us, your records have not been identified as needing review.’

In a statement, the Department of Health has explained how Northern Ireland’s screening system will move from cytology-based to primary HPV testing by December 2023. Primary HPV is ‘more sensitive’ than cytology-based screening and should ‘help facilitate the removal of the current backlog for reporting smear test results.’

For concerns or questions, Southern Trust have set up a freephone helpline on 0800 9520255. It will be available Monday to Friday from 9.00 am-6.30pm, and from 10.00am – 4.00pm on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th October.

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