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Advice Sought On ACC Cervical Screening Case

Ministry To Seek Expert Advice On ACC Cervical Screening Case

The Ministry of Health is to seek expert advice regarding reports of repeated smear misreading from a Northland woman who has had a claim of medical misadventure upheld by ACC.

Ministry National Screening Unit Clinical Director Julia Peters says any issue with the Cervical Screening programme is taken very seriously, particularly in light of the Gisborne Inquiry which delivered its report in April this year.

Dr Peters says the Ministry has been in contact with ACC who will be forwarding information to the National Screening Unit to enable further investigation of the case and to see if there are any actions we need to take in addition to the ones we are already taking to implement the recommendations of the Gisborne Inquiry.

The Screening Unit will be seeking expert advice from it's Advisory Group which was established three years ago to provide expert advice on strategic policy issues and programme monitoring and evaluation. The Group includes consumer representation.

Dr Peters says that while the Gisborne Inquiry identified systemic issues for the programme up until the mid-90s, the changes made to strengthen the programme since then and the implementation of the Gisborne Inquiry recommendations should provide reassurance to women enrolled in the programme.

For more information contact: Peter Abernethy, Communications Manager 04-496-2008 or 025-477-036 Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Screening programmes are public health risk reduction programmes and high quality screening programmes should be able to deliver substantial population benefits. Not all cases of cervical cancer will be detected or prevented. Some individuals will be harmed by screening programmes at an individual level, either as a result of a false negative result or a false positive result that leads to unnecessary anxiety or intervention.

Unfortunately even the best screening programmes can not prevent every case of cervical cancer nor detect every very small breast cancer. However, the higher the quality, the more cases they will prevent or detect and the smaller the number of women who will have false negative results or be recalled unnecessarily for further investigation.

It is important that this information is conveyed to women accurately to ensure realistic expectations of women being screened.

For screening programmes to work well they need a very high proportion of women to be both enrolled and regularly screened. NZ women have demonstrated a high level of committment to the cervical screening programme - enrolments are high - at around 90% of women aged 20-69 years. It is important that women continue to have regular cervical smear tests.

Since the programme began there have been significant reductions in both the rates of disease and deaths from cervical cancer. In the 10 years from 1987 - 1996 cervical cancer incidence rates decreased by 22 per cent. From 1987 - 1996 the death rate for cervical cancer dropped by 43 percent. In 1996 82 women died from cervical cancer compared to 96 in 1995.

Website: http://www.healthywomen.org.nz


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