§ Gillian Merron
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to improve the quality of cervical cancer screening following the recall by Lincoln County Hospital of women whose smear test results were incorrectly reported. 
§ Ms Jowell
[holding answer 6 February 1998]The regional quality assurance programme found lower than expected levels of reporting of smear abnormalities at Lincoln and Louth National Health Service Trust. On the basis of this, the trust took swift action in ordering a re-read of a number of smears, and some women have now been recalled. We are pleased that the quality60W assurance system in place in the Trent region did its job properly in identifying the problem, and that rapid action was taken to put it right.
Wide ranging action to help ensure consistent high quality and dependability in cervical screening across the country was announced last year in the light of a failure of the cervical screening programme at Kent and Canterbury NHS Trust. We announced that there would be a review of the performance of all cervical screening programmes, and that, where necessary, action plans would be drawn up to help ensure national standards are met on 3 November 1997, Ojficial Report, columns 19–28. EL(97)67 was also issued. In addition, we are tightening up accountability for quality assurance. In December, we announced a package of measures to promote consistent high quality in laboratories undertaking cervical screening (EL(97)83 refers). In particular, all laboratories must apply this year for external quality accreditation and there will be targeted refresher training for staff in laboratories which do not meet key quality indicators. The Chief Medical Officer has set up an action team to monitor progress.