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BowelScreen waiting lists have led to adapted accreditation

The JAG accreditation scheme, which is run by the Royal College of Physicians, UK, is regarded as “one of the most innovative and effective in the healthcare sector,” according to its website.

A draft memorandum of understanding between the National Screening Service and individual units delivering BowelScreen, dated 2018, refers to an obligation on contracted hospitals to “maintain NHS Joint Advisory Group on Gastroenterology or JAG Ireland accreditation, including the completion of twice-yearly GRS [global rating scores] Ireland Census returns”.

The 14 units participating in BowelScreen were JAG-accredited when contracted to provide endoscopy services for the screening programme, according to a HSE spokesperson. Twelve units “are currently JAG-accredited”. 

University Hospital Galway and Mercy University Hospital, Cork, lost their accreditation in 2016 because of waiting list issues, the HSE confirmed.

However, the Executive’s spokesperson added: “Whilst attending the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) in 2016, BowelScreen sought the opinion of their (BSG) screening experts on this matter. They were informed that the BSG had never suspended a JAG-accredited screening unit solely because of a breach in waiting times.  The BowelScreen Clinical Advisory Group took this on board and adopted a similar approach. Both units continue to provide endoscopy services for BowelScreen.”

A spokesperson for the Saolta University Health Care Group said two of the four hospitals in the Group involved in BowelScreen “have had their accreditation suspended because of waiting list issues”, namely University Hospital Galway and Letterkenny University Hospital. Saolta’s spokesperson said it “should be noted that only three hospitals in the country have been able to retain their JAG accreditation for similar reasons. As a consequence, JAG have recently announced an Ireland-specific accreditation programme”.

By press time, the HSE had not provided any further details regarding the Ireland-specific accreditation programme.

An external review by Prof Robert Steele, Clinical Director, Scottish Bowel Screening Programme, into missed cancers at Wexford General Hospital under the BowelScreen programme in 2013, stated in its findings that the unit “must maintain NHS Joint Advisory Group on Gastroenterology (JAG) accreditation”, including the completion of twice-yearly GRS returns.

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