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Comment on the the National Audit Office investigation into the management of health screening

Fri, 01/02/2019 - 08:31

Today the National Audit Office has published its investigation into the management of health screening.

Following publication of the report Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said:

“We welcome this report as it highlights serious concerns that we have held for a long time regarding our cervical screening programme. It is both a concern and frustration to see that cervical is the most underachieving of all the screening programmes. Not only is the standard coverage target not being reached, it is not even achieving the lower threshold target of 75% and has not for the past 6 years.

As the report says, the programme is supported by an ancient IT infrastructure with multiple systems and multiple providers across multiple locations making it far more complex than the three other programmes. This presents opportunity for errors in data transfer, risk from operating on such outdated technology and further, it is impeding positive change and progress. A project to replace one part of the system was due for completion in August 2018, yet it is now 2019 and the work is at a standstill. Not only has this project cost a huge sum to date, the lack of progress means that one of the biggest changes to the programme in years – HPV primary testing – is going to be rolled out on a “not fit for purpose” IT system. The report clearly highlights failings as a result of outsourcing work to Capita and lessons must be learnt to ensure this is not repeated. The complexity of the governance structure regarding the programme has led to issues such as provision for screening in sexual health to be significantly reduced and it is women who miss out, namely those at greater risk of cervical cancer. It’s disappointing that failures in long term planning has led to issues such as ongoing, high turnaround times since 2015. Again it is women who are affected, as many have faced unnecessary worry at what we know is already an anxious time. Along with the current review by Professor Sir Mike Richards, we hope we will finally see some changes to our programme before failures lead to confidence and, far worse, lives being lost.”

Find out more about our work in this area in our report, Computer Says No.