Southern Trust Smear Test Recall

In a concerning development, BBC News NI has reported that around 17,500 women in Northern Ireland are to have their smear tests re-checked as part of a major review of cervical screening dating as far back as 2008.


The Southern Trust says it is reviewing the cases of some 17,500 women following a highly critical report from Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) and that the women affected should receive letters by post from Tuesday. We have received a copy of the report and its main findings are: –


  • Several cytology staff were “significantly underperforming”
  • Mechanisms to check their work were flawed
  • Action taken by management was inadequate over many years
  • While a majority of negative results issued by the laboratory were correct, a “significant number” of these would likely have been identified as “potentially abnormal” by other laboratories


Dr Steve Austin, the Trust’s Medical Director, has apologised for what has happened and for the “stress and anxiety” caused to women.

It has been reported there have been ongoing issues with underperforming screeners and that how it was managed “simply wasn’t good enough”.

The full BBC can be accessed online: –

The failures identified by the independent report are deeply worrying.

Sadly, it may be that some impacted have since been diagnosed with cervical cancer and required extensive treatment which could have been avoided, with appropriate screening.

We currently represent several patients in respect of delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer and would encourage anyone impacted by the review to seek legal advice and support at this difficult time.

It is understood the Western Trust have also conducted similar audit reviews and we represent a number of female patients under the care of this Trust also. If you or a loved one have been affected by any of these issues, please get in touch with our experienced medical negligence team.