• Wyatt Creech

The Minister of Health has sought and received a second expert opinion on the clinical approach taken by the Health Funding Authority following findings of serious under-reporting of cervical smear abnormalities by a Gisborne pathologist.

"This is a very difficult time for those who have had their smears tested by Dr Bottrill. I wanted a second opinion as to whether all that should be done was being done."

Mr Creech said he specifically wanted to know whether the speed of retesting, the notification of women with high grade abnormalities first and the decision to retest breast specimens first was absolutely the best approach clinically.

"The Health Funding Authority took the right step at the outset of this case to seek the guidance and advice of an expert panel.

"While I have every reason to be confident in that expert advice I wanted to be satisfied the approach was totally sound.

"Questions have been raised over not to notifying women with low grade smears until all the retests have been completed and over the limited retesting of hystology specimens.

"Medical Advisors from the Ministry of Health and an external expert with experience in laboratory medicine as a consultant pathologist have reviewed the HFA's approach.

"I am reassured that they believe the HFA's approach is appropriate," Mr Creech said.

The second opinion has found that the HFA's response to the discovery of serious under-reporting is :

· Appropriate, of high quality and has a reasonable timeline. · The re-reading of slides is being done as quickly as possible and practical. · The risk based strategy of chronological testing and informing women with high grade abnormal smears as a priority is sound. · The capacity of the colposcopy services in the area to deal with the cases identified is being addressed. · The methodology used in deciding to screen all breast histology samples as a priority is appropriate.

"I asked for this urgent advice now because I felt it was important to have back-up specialist advice as to whether the right steps were being take now, and this couldn't wait until after the inquiry.

"I am reassured by this advice. I hope the women of Gisborne will be too.

"I know full well that this is a trying and difficult time. But I would again urge any woman who has any concerns to take up the offer of a free smear to get answers - if they haven't already done so," Mr Creech concluded.