Dáil Éireann - Volume 542 - 24 October, 2001
Written Answers. - Health Screening.
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
209. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the projects he has initiated for health screening since his appointment as Minister for Health and Children; and the proposal he has for similar projects in the future. [25530/01]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): BreastCheck, the National Breast Screening Programme, commenced in February 2000 with phase one of the programme covering the Eastern Regional Health Authority, Midland Health Board and North-Eastern Health Board areas. The decision to proceed on a phased basis is a reflection of the complexities involved in the screening process and my Department's key objective is to ensure that the programme is driven by international quality assurance criteria and best practice. BreastCheck is currently in consultation with the health boards concerning the roll out of the programme nationwide. I will support BreastCheck in moving to national coverage as soon as is practicably possible having regard, in particular, to the experience gained in putting phase one of the programme in place.
Phase one of the National Cervical Screening Programme was launched in October 2000 covering the Mid-Western Health Board area. As with BreastCheck, the experience gained from phase one will facilitate the process of planning and  organising the roll out of this programme. Currently the chief executive officers of the health boards are involved in an examination of the feasibility and implications of extending the programme to the rest of the country.
It is vital that the techniques used in screening for cancer are proved to be medically effective and accurate before screening programmes, covering large segments of the population, are introduced. Reliable screening techniques for breast cancer and cervical cancer are now well established internationally.
I am keeping the question of introducing screening programmes for other forms of cancer under review, having regard to the most up to date advice on the medical effectiveness of the available screening techniques. In this context, the National Cancer Forum, which advises me on all aspects of cancer services, has recently established a sub-group on cancer screening. This sub-group will examine the issues and ensure that all relevant research is taken into account before making recommendations on the introduction of new screening programmes and techniques.
Dáil Éireann 542 Written Answers. Health Screening.