Patients recalled at local health practice

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Patients at a Newtownabbey practice have been recalled following concerns being raised about possible shortcomings in one health worker’s cervical screening technique.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) have been made aware of the issue around cervical screening tests (commonly referred to as cervical smears) at Abbott’s Cross Practice. It affects a small number of women.

A review team was established by the HSCB and PHA to examine this issue, and as a result a total of 150 women at Abbott’s Cross Practice and Dr McKenna’s Practice, Thames Street, Belfast, have been sent invitations by their GP for a repeat cervical screening test.

Patients affected have been asked to contact their GP to arrange a repeat test. They have also been asked to seek further information if they have any concerns.

However the Trust stressed that this does not necessarily mean that their initial results were wrong; the repeat test is a precautionary measure to provide reassurance about their previous screening result.

Each of the patients who are being contacted by the two surgeries had their cervical screening tests taken by one particular healthcare worker, who has ceased taking these tests since this issue emerged.

If you are a patient of either practice and have not received a letter, there is no reason to be concerned. You have not been impacted by this issue and there is no need to take any further action.

Dr Tracy Owen, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Cervical Screening Lead at the PHA, said: “We understand that the women who are receiving these letters may be anxious, but we would like to reassure them that this is a precautionary measure and would urge them to accept the invitation for a repeat test.

“In general, cervical screening aims to prevent cancer from occurring in the first place by checking for pre-cancerous changes in the cells that line the cervix. Any early changes can then be successfully treated which is why it is so important that anyone who is invited for screening to see it as a positive step in looking after their health.”

A spokesperson from the HSCB said: “This issue was picked up and reported through good vigilance, monitoring and audit processes in primary care. An action plan has now been put in place to contact the women who may have been affected to enable them to be offered a repeat test as a precautionary measure at their earliest convenience. Together with the PHA, we have been providing advice and support to the two surgeries to help ensure that this takes place in a timely and smooth way.”

A spokesperson for the two GP practices said: “We would like to reassure the women who we are contacting that this is a precautionary recall and we have put in place arrangements for those affected to get an appointment quickly. Patients who haven’t received a letter from us have no reason to be concerned and do not need to arrange a repeat test. They should just attend for routine screening when invited.”