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Statement on cervical screening incident in Northern Ireland

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 10:35

Health and Social Care Northern Ireland (HSCNI) has announced that thousands of cervical screening samples will be reviewed, because there may be an issue with the accuracy of some results provided by the Southern Health Trust’s laboratory.

Some women may have incorrectly received negative results, so the Southern Health Trust is reviewing 17,000 records as a precautionary measure. Anyone whose sample might have been affected will be contacted by letter, to let them know that this review is taking place. Some people might also be asked to attend a screening appointment.

The Southern Trust has apologised and is implementing recommendations to improve service provision and oversight to prevent this from happening again.

A Freephone Information line has been set up to answer any questions you may have: 0800 9520255 (Monday to Friday, 9am – 6.30pm, 10am – 4pm on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 October 2023). The Southern Trust has advised anyone receiving a letter not to contact their GP, unless told otherwise. More information can be found on the Southern Trust’s website.

 

At Jo’s, we welcome the efforts made by HSCNI to address the laboratory standards and implement improvements. We are pleased that the severity of the situation has been recognised and that HSCNI are providing measures to support those affected.

However, we understand that this could be a worrying time for anybody receiving a letter. It may help to know that most cervical screening results do not show cell changes or an HPV infection. Around 1 in 20 samples show cell changes and many of these go away by themselves. It’s also important to know that cervical cancer is a rare and slow-growing cancer, usually developing over 10 to 20 years.

If you have any cervical cancer symptoms, like unusual vaginal bleeding, changes to vaginal discharge, unexplained pain in your lower back or pelvis, or pain or discomfort during sex, we encourage you to contact your GP straight away — don’t wait for a letter or cervical screening appointment.