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Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry Report

Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry Report Released

Health Minister Annette King says legislation will be passed this year to satisfy key recommendations of the report into Under-Reporting of Cervical Smear Abnormalities in the Gisborne region.

Releasing the report at a public meeting in Gisborne today, Mrs King said she accepted its recommendations, and was working on how best to implement them as soon as possible.

"My thoughts are with the women of the Gisborne region at this time, particularly the women most directly affected by the Inquiry. It has been a traumatic time for them and their families and I hope the report's release will be an important step in their healing process," Mrs King said.

"I have written to the women affected and apologised for the events of the past decade that led to the Inquiry. The onus is now on us to keep putting into place systems to help prevent the likelihood of such circumstances occurring again."

Mrs King said the Inquiry team of Ailsa Duffy QC, Druis Barrett and Professor Maire Duggan had made 46 recommendations, of which 27 were already completed or were in the process of implementation.

"Work will continue or begin on all the recommendations as a high priority, but before some of them can be put in place, legislative changes are needed. This refers particularly to effective auditing, monitoring and evaluation of the programme.

"The Government will consult on this over the next few weeks, but I agree with the Inquiry that access to all files is essential if we are to audit the programme in a way that gives us confidence. We need quality assurance processes.

"The Government has agreed to introduce an Omnibus Bill this year. It will be split into two parts. The first part will be passed this year, and it is anticipated it will deal with amendments necessary to evaluate and audit the programme effectively, and it will also deal with the immediate amendments proposed by Helen Cull's report on adverse events, including mandatory reporting of bad practice and temporary suspension of practitioners. The second half of the Bill will deal with less pressing issues."

Mrs King said she supported the Director-General of Health, Dr Karen Poutasi, who had made a commitment to ensuring that lessons will be learned from the Inquiry.

"The report positively endorses the work of Clinical Director Dr Julia Peters and the National Screening Unit in building a programme with strong quality standards and monitoring processes. Dr Poutasi is committed to ensuring the programme remains well-managed and resourced. She knows the best way to make that happen is to evaluate progress regularly on implementing the recommendations.

"That is why I have accepted her recommendation that I invite an international expert to review implementation of the recommendations in six months and again in a year. I am delighted that Dr Euphemia McGoogan, who gave evidence at the Inquiry, has accepted that role. I will visit her when I am in Britain next month. Dr McGoogan is a senior lecturer in pathology at Edinburgh University and patient services director pathology at the Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust."

Mrs King said she had also asked for monthly updates from the ministry for the next six months. "I will be making those updates public so women can see how much emphasis we are placing on getting the programme exactly right. Screening does save lives. In the words of the report, the work that has been done on the redevelopment of the programme will go a long way to reducing the likelihood of an incident such as that which occurred in Gisborne happening again."


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