01 Oct 2022

Smear test recall has been 'distressing' for local women

The Western Trust has recalled over sixty local women for repeat cervical smear tests after carrying out a review of tests conducted over several months last year. The Trust has reviewed a number of smear tests that were screened and reported at its Pathology Laboratory between April 2018 and June 2018. It was carried out after variances in the reporting of a number of tests were identified during routine performance checks conducted at the Trust’s Pathology Laboratory. These standard quality checks are carried out every three months, in line with UK best practice. The Western Trust said it immediately set up a review team, alerted the Public Health Agency and Department of Health and initiated the review process.  As a result of the review, a total of 86 women have been asked to arrange repeat smear test with their GP. Of the 86 women affected, 61 of them are from the Western Trust area, 8 women from the Belfast and South Eastern Trust areas and 17 women from the Republic of Ireland. Dr Dermot Hughes, Medical Director of the Western Trust, said: “The women affected will have received letters inviting them to contact their GP to arrange a repeat smear test. This does not necessarily mean that the results of their initial test were wrong; the repeat test is a precautionary measure to provide reassurance that all women are being followed up appropriately. “I understand that this may cause worry and inconvenience for the women affected and I sincerely apologise for this. I would like to reassure everyone that the samples that were reviewed were a small percentage of those screened and reported between April 2018 and June 2018. “The stringent quality checks that are in place have reassured us that it was only a certain number of tests within this timeframe that were required to be re-examined.”  ‘Life-saving’ Sinn Féin Councillor Caoimhe McKnight has said her party has requested an urgent meeting with the Western Trust. The Derry councillor recently encouraged local women to have regular Smear Tests as she reflected on her own experience with the “life-saving” procedure. Cllr. McKnight said: “I can speak from experience when I say that a Smear Test could literally save your life.  When living in Scotland at the age of 21, which is the age there at which you are eligible for a smear, I received the notification of my eligibility and advised to avail of it. “But like many young women I put it off for a couple of months before finally going for the test.  When I tell you how grateful I am that I made the decision to have the test it is no exaggeration. “It was lucky (yes lucky) that I made the decision to have the test as they found abnormal cells.  I dread to think what I may have been told if I had to wait until the age of 25 before being tested. “After treatment and a few yearly smears everything is now fine and I am now in the normal 3 year test cycle.” She said it will be a “distressing” time for the women recalled but urged them all to contact their GP's to schedule a repeat smear test as soon as possible. "While the Western Trust have said that this is a precautionary measure it will still cause concern and worry so it is important the affected women do not face undue delay in receiving a repeat test. "In June 2018, 150 women in Belfast and Newtownabbey were also invited to attend for repeat smear test after the Public Health Agency were made aware of concerns identified in April that year. "As I understand it, the Western Trust’s review of cervical smear tests concerned those in April and June 2018, but it is not clear if there is a connection with what happened in Belfast and Newtownabbey in June and this recent action by the Western Trust. "Sinn Féin have requested an urgent meeting with the Western Trust and we will be raising these concerns directly with them," she added. ‘Mistakes’ Meanwhile, SDLP councillor Angela Dobbins told women to call the Western Trust helpline, to allay any concerns. Cllr Dobbins commented: “This is not the first time mistakes have been made in regards to cervical screening laboratories; lessons should and must be learnt from issues both in the South and in England. “Undoubtedly this recall will be a cause of concern for many women. However, I must stress the fact that only a fraction of those tested between April to June 2018 were affected and will receive letters this week to arrange a repeat test with their GP. “This does not necessarily indicate that initial results were incorrect, rather the recall is a precautionary measure intended to allay concerns.” The Western Trust has advised the affected women that if they have any concerns or want further information, they should contact the Western Trust’s Laboratory Department on 028 7161 1350, from Tuesday 5 February to Wednesday 13 February between 9am to 5pm.

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