HSE announce 'rapid review' after 800 smear results not issued

HSE announce 'rapid review' after 800 smear results not issued

- with reporting from Vivienne Clarke

The HSE has announced that there will be "an immediate rapid review" into the IT glitch that led to 800 women not receiving their smear test results.

In a statement, the health service's CEO, Paul Reid, said that the review will examine all aspects of the incident, "with a particular focus on how these matters were communicated to the women using our service.".

It was revealed last week that around 800 women who had repeat HPV tests didn't receive their results due to an IT issue at the Quest Diagnostics lab in Virginia.


It centred on tests carried out from late last year to June this year.

Mr Reid said: "I have asked Professor Brian MacCraith, to act as independent external chairperson for this review, which I expect to be completed in a short number of weeks.

"Amongst the matters that will be considered will be how the communication process for providing results to women was planned and managed, and how this worked in practice."

A statement from the HSE said the review will aim to "determine the facts that led to this situation and to identify how the communication of screening results to women and their GPs was planned and managed".


The review will entail looking into the following areas:

  • To determine the complete chronology of events from the time the IT issues first emerged up to the public reporting of these issues on the 11 July 2019.
  • To establish the agreed process for the communication of results to women and their GPs, how this was planned and managed and how this process worked in practice.
  • To determine the adequacy of the response put in place once these issues emerged and to determine where and what the learning is for the management and communication processes within and from the Screening Programmes.
  • To determine if the relevant procedures as set out in the HSE’s Incident Management Framework and Integrated Risk Management policy were followed and implemented.
  • To examine the appropriateness of the escalation and if, how and when the communication of the incident within the HSE’s governance structures and between the HSE and the Department of Health, and the relevant Cervical Check committee structures was managed.
  • To provide a report to the HSE’s CEO setting out the facts relating to the incident and to make recommendations for any appropriate further actions and future learning.

The review will be carried out by Professor Brian MacCraith, President of Dublin City University and it is due to be complete by August 2.

"We have worked hard to try to rebuild confidence in the cervical screening programme in Ireland, and the delays identified in recent days in providing results to women are not acceptable," said Mr Reid.

"I want this work to commence quickly and be completed in a timely manner, and will ensure Brian and the team are aided in their work by the full cooperation of all involved in the HSE and in the National Screening Service."


Speaking to RTÉ's New At One, Minister for Health Simon Harris said it was "really important" that a review was carried out.

"Clearly there was a communications issue here, where they believed laboratories had conveyed results to GPs and women and that had not happened.

HSE announce 'rapid review' after 800 smear results not issued

Simon Harris

"That's not acceptable, I know it's not acceptable to the CEO of the HSE and it's not acceptable to me either."

Mr Harris added that his office only learned of the issue on July 10, "when my officials got the figures in relation to 800 women potentially being impacted".

He added that: "My understanding is that letters with results went in the post to GPs last Thursday, so my expectation is at this stage is that many GPs will have received those results for women.

"I also understand that the HSE intends to write directly to them and so I would hope that by the middle of this week most women will have received their results, if not all women.

"Certainly the aim is that all women will have received their results by the middle of this week."

He said that the incident was "highly regrettable", adding that as of now, "the importance has to be on making sure that the women impacted get the results.

"I think the review can look into other matters as to why things were or weren't escalated and who knew what in the HSE."

Mr Harris said he was "happy to allow the review do that piece of work."