Hundreds of women need to have smear tests retaken – after medic found to be carrying out tests incorrectly for 13 YEARS
14:38 GMT, 23 May 2012
Smear tests are offered to women aged 25 to 64 and test for pre-cancerous cells
Hundreds of women have been told they need to have their smear tests retaken – after discovering that a member of staff had been carrying out tests incorrectly for 13 YEARS.
More than 1,200 women who were tested by an individual at the Brough and South Cave medical practice in Hull, East Yorks, have been told they need to book another appointment, after discovering a female medic had not been following the correct procedure.
Every woman who had their last smear test with the staff member – some from as far back as 1999 – has been advised to be retested.
During a routine clinical observation, the staff member was noted to be taking a cell sample from only part of the cervix – when samples from the whole of the cervix is necessary for the test to be accurate.
Despite the sample taker being observed a year ago, when there were no concerns, the health centre has taken the decision to ask every woman who had their last test taken by the individual to be checked.
As the smear test programme is only open to women aged 25 to 64, some women who are over the maximum age had their last smear test with the individual up to 13 years ago.
Dr Tabitha Tinker, a senior partner at Brough and South Cave Medical Practice, said she understands women will be concerned but said the risk is low.
She said: 'During an internal review of clinical practice, a concern was raised that a proportion of smear tests may not have been to the usual high standard.
'We took immediate steps to make sure no other women were affected.
The risk that any cervical abnormalities have not been picked up is very low but, as a precaution, we have invited the women involved to attend for a repeat smear test.
'We want to apologise for any concern and inconvenience.'
The Brough and South Cave Medical Practice where hundreds of women need to be retested
A smear test is not a test for cancer but is designed to detect abnormal pre-cancerous cells in the cervix, in order to prevent cervical cancer.
During the test, samples need to be taken from the whole of the cervix, which is viewed through a speculum.
However, the observations discovered the staff member was only viewing and sampling from one part of the cervix, raising the possibility that the results were not accurate.
Dr Tinker said: 'To have a sufficient test, the whole of the cervix needs to be sampled and, during one set of observations, we felt this may not have been the case.
'The sample taker had been observed previously, the year before, and we had observed no concerns.'
Although the surgery is not required to carry out clinic observations, they say it is good practice to observe each other.
The surgery declined to comment on whether or not the staff member still worked for the surgery.
However, Dr Cheryl Lyons said they are no longer conducting smear tests.
She said: 'We had discussions with this person and asked if they had any difficulties and that person was genuinely not aware that things were not as they should be.
'It was human error. It's not about blame and identifying individuals, it is about honesty and identifying there was a problem and doing something about it.
'Although this has happened and we have to deal with it, our priority is patient care. It's shown our observations worked. It's unfortunate it picked up a problem but it shows it was there for good reason.'
The error was discovered last year and, since then, the surgery has been working with East Riding of Yorkshire Primary Care Trust and the NHS Cancer Screening Programme to identify all the affected women.
Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS East Riding of Yorkshire, said: 'We would like to reassure women the reason we are offering them a repeat test is to confirm the results of their original smear tests.'