‘Shortcomings’ may affect quality of breast screenings

The State’s health services watchdog has found shortcomings in BreastCheck’s governance structures that could affect the quality of the national screening service.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has published a review of information practices at the national breast cancer screening service.

The review makes 11 recommendation to “drive improvements” in information management at BreastCheck.

Hiqa’s director of health information standards, Rachel Flynn, said it is vital BreastCheck implements all of the recommendations to ensure the best outcomes for women undergoing breast screening.

“In relation to information management, the review found shortcomings in governance structures at BreastCheck that have the potential to impact on the quality of the breast cancer screening service,” said Ms Flynn.

“Implementing these recommendations will not only have benefits for BreastCheck but also the other three screening programmes within the national screening service.”

Breast cancer screening under the BreastCheck programme is available free of charge to women who are aged 50 to 64.

The service is being extended so that by the end of 2021 all eligible women aged 50 to 69 will be invited for routine screening.

Since it was establishment in 2000, BreastCheck has provided more than 1.7m mammograms to over 540,00 women and detected more than 11,000 cancers.

Hiqa said BreastCheck must have a complete and accurate population register in order to deliver a comprehensive service.

Information also needed to be managed correctly so that women attending screening will receive, timely, efficient and effective care if a cancer is detected.

The review found that while the screening service is undertaking a significant amount of work to improve the quality of the data collected within the screening units, an overarching data quality framework to enhance the ongoing work is needed.

Also, information governance arrangements need to be strengthened to so they adhere to relevant policies and procedures and comply with legislation, including the General Data Protection Regulation.

BreastCheck has an extremely valuable national health data collection and Hiqa recommends that it should be more accessible to all interested parties, including women using the service.

BreastCheck said the review has identified areas of good practice in information management as well as areas where improvement is necessary.

The head of screening at the National Screening Service, Charles O’Hanlon, said BreastCheck has started implementing most of Hiqa’s recommendations and is committed to meeting the authority’s information management standards.

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