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The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) has commenced a public tender process under EU procurement guidelines, for the provision of cytology laboratory services for CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme.

The procurement process will be conducted in line with EU Restricted Procedures.  The process will be conducted in two stages. Potential bidders will be required to complete a Pre Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). The objective of the qualification process is to assess the responses to the PQQ and select potential applicants to proceed to stage two of the tendering process. 

Similar to the previous criteria in the tender process carried out in 2007-2008, each applicant will be required to meet certain quality criteria, namely:

  • Hold third party accreditation to International Standard ISO 15189 for the screening of Liquid Based Cytology  (LBC) slides
  • Have the capacity to screen a minimum of 25,000 cervical smear samples per annum at each proposed laboratory 
  • Have the capacity and ability to process smear tests within a 10 day turnaround in order to facilitate the continued delivery of results to women within four weeks of their smear test

CervicalCheck became available to the 1.1 million eligible women aged 25 to 60 on 1 September 2008. Since launch, Quest Diagnostics Inc. has provided cytology laboratory services for the Programme, having been awarded the contract following a public procurement tender 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. Commenting on the process, Tony O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer of the NCSS said: “The decision to return to market is in no way an adverse reflection on the service provided by Quest Diagnostics since August 2008. Economic and market conditions have changed since the original tender process was undertaken. The Department of Finance advocates that Government agencies return to market rather than extend or renew existing contracts. As a public agency, the NCSS has a duty to ensure it continues to receive best value for money across all suppliers. The decision to return to the market does not invalidate or remove the option to extend the existing contract with Quest Diagnostics for another two years.”

Since launch, the CervicalCheck programme has achieved the objectives initially set. During its first year of operation, uptake levels remained consistently high, with approximately 1,000 smear tests analysed per day. Since CervicalCheck became available to women in Ireland, all cervical smear testing in the public system has been undertaken by a third party accredited, quality assured laboratory and for the first time in Ireland, women are receiving the results of their smear tests within just four weeks of having their test taken.



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