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Update report shows progress and challenges

8 November 2001 Media Statement

Cervical Screening six-monthly update report shows progress to date and challenges ahead

Health Minister Annette King says there are still many challenges ahead as the Ministry of Health and National Screening Unit (NSU) continue the process of implementing the Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry Report recommendations.

When the Inquiry Report was released on April 10th, Mrs King made a commitment to return to Gisborne to update the region’s women on progress after six months.

Today at a public meeting in the city she released a Six-Month Summary Report on the Inquiry Report’s implementation.

Expert British Cytopathologist Dr Euphemia McGoogan, who is providing the Minister with an independent assessment of the implementation of the recommendations, presented a preliminary perspective on progress.

Mrs King and Dr McGoogan were accompanied by Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia, Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi and senior members of the National Screening Unit.

Mrs King said progress had been made in several key areas during the first six months since the report’s release.

“Work has been carried out on 45 of the 46 recommendations. In all 37 are underway while 8 have been completed.

“This year the NSU took over the important task of carrying out the audit of women with invasive cervical cancer. Since the audit commenced in April, the initial planning phase identified some 400 women who have developed cervical cancer and who will be included in the audit. The NSU aims to complete this audit in an eighteen-month timeframe.

“To better enable the monitoring, audit and evaluation of the programme in the future, the Cabinet has approved a number of changes to Section 74A of the Health Act. The changes followed the release of a public discussion document, which subsequently received 101 submissions. Although the proposed changes will meet several key recommendations of the Inquiry Report, consent will still need to be sought to access the clinical records of women held by GPs.

“The message from the submissions was clear. Three quarters of the submissions were opposed to giving access to medical records without consent. As a result we’ve developed a process that recognises these concerns while giving us the best possible framework for conducting effective programme monitoring, audit and evaluation,” Mrs King said.

“When in place the changes will allow information from the NCSP Register to be available for assessing the effectiveness of the NCSP. The consent process only applies to clinical records held by GPs.

“From July 1 laboratories providing services to the NCSP were required to meet a range of new quality standards. As a result of the new standards the number of laboratories providing services to the programme has reduced to 13, eleven community laboratories and two public hospital laboratories.

“July also saw the release of the first quarterly monitoring report for the programme. Routine monitoring is a key factor in ensuring ongoing quality and enabling the identification and resolution of problems at an early stage.

“Other key developments include the establishment of the NSU. This Unit is responsible for the management of both cancer screening programmes and will have 33 staff when at full strength. The Unit is managed by Karen Mitchell, with Dr Julia Peters the clinical leader for both programmes. The Unit has sought to build on initiatives that have been taken to strengthen the NCSP in the past two and a half years.

“Another key project is the NSU’s Workforce Development Project, which aims to provide a strategy for addressing issues in the screening workforce. The project’s final report is due by the end of the year. The membership of the National Ethics Committee, which will consider several key recommendations in the Inquiry Report, will be announced next week.

“The focus for us is to continue getting the job done. The Ministry intends to provide me with a further update on progress in six months. This report will be made publicly available. New Zealand women can have confidence that the lessons of Gisborne are being learned, but it is fair to say we have not addressed all issues yet.”

Mrs King said Dr McGoogan would also present her second report in six months.

Copies of the Six-Month Summary Report and the Gisborne Ministerial Inquiry Report can be found at website address: Copies of the cabinet paper, cabinet minute and media material on changes to Section 74A of the Health Act can be found at website address:

Copies of the National Screening Unit’s first Independent Monitoring Report for the National Cervical Screening Programme plus other information on the NCSP can be found at website address:

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