Muiris Houston: Scally report signals deep problems in Irish healthcare
Communication and disclosure are key flaws among CervicalCheck’s systemic deficits
Lorraine Walsh, who received an incorrect smear test result, and Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene Teap, to cervical cancer at the launch of the Scally Report into the CervicalCheck screening programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
A well-researched investigation and subsequent report will always raise as many questions as answers. This is true of Dr Gabriel Scally’s scoping report into the CervicalCheck controversy, published this week.
Among the answers provided by the report is a clear outline of how cancer screening, based on human examination of slides of cervical cells, is a less than robust process. Of 1,000 women screened using Pap smears, 20 will have pre-cancerous changes. However, only 15 of these 20 will ever be picked up by a national screening programme. Regardless of the quality of cytologists looking down microscopes and the perfection of smear takers, this is as good as it gets. Some five out of 20 pre-cancerous smears will be labelled normal when they are not, representing a relatively high rate of false negative tests.