Dáil Éireann - Volume 662 - 07 October, 2008

Written Answers. - Cancer Screening Programme.

[906] Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck will be available in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33725/08]

  Deputy Mary Harney: The Deputy’s specific question in relation to the roll out of BreastCheck to County Donegal is the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if smear tests are being processed in laboratories here or if they are all being sent to the US; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33726/08]

  Deputy Mary Harney: On 1 September 2008 the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) announced the availability of CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme. The Programme provides free smear tests through primary care settings to the 1.1 million women living in Ireland aged between 25 and 60 years. The NCSS is fully committed to providing a quality assured population based cervical screening programme which has the potential to reduce current mortality rates from cervical cancer among women in Ireland by 80%.

The NCSS undertook a transparent procurement process under EU procurement guidelines to select a suitable cytology laboratory provider. On 9 May the NCSS announced that it had selected Quest Diagnostics, a US based company, as the ‘preferred bidder’ as a result of this process. Quest Diagnostics met all the criteria set out under the procurement process.

Quest Diagnostics is reporting on all CervicalCheck smear tests. The contract has been awarded for a two year term with an option to renew for a further two years. Up to 300,000 smear tests will be processed per annum. All GPs and smear takers who register with CervicalCheck are informed of the correct procedure for sending programme smears to Quest.

As CervicalCheck is rolled out nationally, the NCSS has indicated that the need for opportunistic smears outside the organised screening programme should disappear over time. Some Irish laboratories may be currently processing remaining backlogs of non-programme smears.