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Following an inquiry into the adult health screening programmes in March, the Public Accounts Committee released a report today into the management of adult health screening. The cervical screening programme is at a 21-year low for numbers of women attending and there is huge disparity across the country in the numbers of people screened. The report also found that the cervical screening programme is “not fit for purpose” due to the ageing IT system it runs on.
Our Chief Executive, Robert Music, responded to this news:
"We have long been raising our concerns about the lack of investment, accountability and innovation in our cervical screening programme. While it remains highly effective at preventing cervical cancer, the systems and structures supporting it are simply not. We are currently in a situation where even the lowest targets for uptake are not being met, there is a clear lack of governance and aspects such as the IT infrastructure behind the programme, which have been called not fit for purpose for many years, are still in use. It is appalling that this is the case. The imminent move to the more effective HPV testing is welcome but this does not just affect laboratories, it has implications for the entire programme and assurances that the existing IT system is safe to support it are critical.
The recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee echo many of our long-held calls for action and must be acted on as they will go some way to addressing the problems we face, yet this is not enough. The review currently being undertaken by Sir Mike Richards will identify further actions which will make our programme safer, more effective and more acceptable to women and we implore NHS England, Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to ensure the necessary investment is available, alongside a willingness to adopt change and innovate. If not, we will reach a tipping point in our programme and preventable deaths will be the consequence.”
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