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NCSS FINALISES CONTRACT FOR THE PROVISION OF CYTOLOGY SERVICES FOR CERVICALCHECK

Following completion of a public tender process, the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) today announced that Clinical Pathology Laboratories Ltd. (CPL) through its company Sonic Healthcare Ireland Ltd. has been awarded a contract to provide cytology laboratory services for CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme. In addition, the existing contract with Quest Diagnostics Inc. will be extended for a further two years.

The contract with CPL is for two years from 1 August 2010 with an option to extend for a further two years.  A condition of the contract is that a cytology laboratory will be established in Ireland to analyse CervicalCheck smear tests within 18 months of commencement of the contract.

Quest Diagnostics Inc. was awarded the original contract for the provision of cytology services following a public procurement process undertaken in 2007-2008. The original contract was awarded for two years (until 31 July 2010), with an option to extend for a further two years or return to market.

Smear tests taken in Ireland as part of the CervicalCheck programme will be streamed regionally by territory and sent initially to a contracted laboratory in the US operated either by Quest Diagnostics Inc. or CPL Ltd. Each Laboratory will have a collection point in Ireland for smear tests.

The service provided to women will remain unchanged and the process of sending smear test samples and receiving results for smeartakers (GPs and practice nurses) will remain unchanged. Individual smeartakers will deal only with one of the two contracted laboratories. Each smear test sample analysed at each laboratory will be double screened by two separate cytotechnologists and results will continue to be provided to women within four weeks of having their smear test taken.

The procurement process was conducted in line with EU Restricted Procedures and conducted in two stages. Similar to the criteria in the previous cytology tender process carried out in 2007-2008, each applicant was required to meet certain quality criteria including the holding of third party accreditation, the capacity to screen a minimum of 25,000 cervical smear samples per annum and the capacity and ability to process smear tests within a 10 day turnaround to facilitate the continued delivery of results to women within four weeks of having their smear test taken.

Commenting on the outcome of the procurement process, Tony O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer of the NCSS said: “Today’s contract award will ensure that women in Ireland will continue to receive a cervical cytology laboratory service that operates in line with the highest international standards. As a public agency the NCSS also has a duty to ensure it continues to receive best value for money across all suppliers. This process has ensured that we maximise value for the Irish taxpayer now and into the future, through maintaining a competitive environment”.

CervicalCheck became available to over 1.1 million eligible women aged 25 to 60 on 1 September 2008. Since launch, the CervicalCheck programme has achieved the objectives initially set. All cervical smear testing in the public system is undertaken by a third party accredited, quality assured laboratory, approximately 1,000 smear tests per day are analysed and results are being provided within just 10 days of receipt at the laboratory.

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