Royal College of Physicians of Ireland calls for screening programmes to be supported

Doctors on ward

To hold screening services to a standard of ‘Absolute confidence’ is a significant concern

Professor Mary Horgan, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, has called for full support for screening services.

“Screening Services in Ireland, including the CervicalCheck programme, have saved lives. Since the inception of the CervicalCheck programme, the incidence of cervical cancer has fallen on a yearly basis with over 50,000 high grade precancerous lesions detected and treated. Recent events have highlighted the limitations of screening and as healthcare professionals we are committed to supporting these essential services,” Prof Horgan said.

“The recent High Court judgement that references the cervical screening service requires careful consideration in terms of its impact on this service, other screening services and its broader implications for medical practise.

“As medical professionals, our goal is to ensure the highest attainable standards of care for our patients and for our screening population - patients are entitled to this. However, to account medical practise and particularly screening services to a standard of ‘absolute confidence’ is a significant concern. Degrees of uncertainty is inherent in most medical testing and medical professionals balance all elements of this uncertainty on a daily basis for the benefit of the patient.

“We know that the system is not infallible and acknowledge that particularly within screening services the system will not be deemed to function for all individuals who participate and we have great sympathy for all those affected in this way.

“However we are extremely concerned that if all false negative screening tests, which we know are expected in all screening programmes, are deemed as a breach of care within this legal system, that this will seriously undermine and potentially negatively impact the viability of all screening programmes.

“Screening programmes are essential public health initiatives and RCPI, together with its Faculties and Institute, will actively engage with all stakeholders to strive to ensure that they are maintained and available to the public. However clarification on the impact of this judgement on these programmes and its wider impact on all diagnostic services is urgently required,” Prof Horgan said.

Read the full High Court ruling

High Court ruling (High Court Judgment [2018 No. 4309 P. ] of Mr Justice Cross in relation to the case of Morrissey versus Health Service Executive, Quest Diagnostic Incorporated and Medlab Pathology Limited

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