BreastCheck should improve information management to provide a high quality breast cancer screening service

Date of publication:

HIQA has today published a review of information management practices at BreastCheck, which is the national breast cancer screening service. This review was undertaken in order to assess compliance with the Information management standards for national health and social care data collections within BreastCheck, which is one of four screening programmes within the National Screening Service.

The review makes 11 recommendations that, if implemented effectively, will drive improvements in information management at BreastCheck. 

Rachel Flynn, HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, said “In relation to information management, the review found shortcomings in governance structures at BreastCheck that have the potential to impact on the quality of the breast cancer screening service. To ensure the best outcomes for women undergoing breast screening, it is important that BreastCheck implements the 11 recommendations made by HIQA today. Implementing these recommendations will not only have benefits for BreastCheck but also the other three screening programmes within the National Screening Service.

“While progress to improve the governance structures of the National Screening Service had commenced, these governance structures need to be clearly defined in relation to information management within the organisation. HIQA recommends that the National Screening Service should implement an appropriate governance structure in order to effectively address information management within BreastCheck, as well as developing both a strategy and performance assurance framework for information management.”

Information management for screening services such as BreastCheck is crucial as a comprehensive service can only be delivered if the programme has a complete and accurate population register. Furthermore, the process of screening generates large volumes of personal health information and relies on accurate documentation and communication of information. Information needs to be managed correctly so that women attending screening will receive timely, efficient and effective care if a cancer is detected.

Ms Flynn continued “The review found that while BreastCheck is undertaking a significant amount of work to improve the quality of the data collected within the screening units, the development of an overarching data quality framework to enhance this ongoing work further is required. In addition, information governance arrangements need to be strengthened to ensure adherence to relevant policies and procedures and compliance with legislation, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“BreastCheck is an extremely valuable national health data collection. Internationally it is recognised that the appropriate sharing and effective use of information can bring enormous benefits. In line with this, HIQA recommends that BreastCheck should make data and information more accessible in a timely manner to all stakeholders, including women using the service.

“Complying with the Information Management Standards will improve the quality of national health information and data, which will ultimately contribute to the delivery of safe and reliable health and social care in Ireland. Compliance with these standards will help to instil confidence in patients, clinicians and all other stakeholders that healthcare decisions are based on high-quality information, the availability of which will ultimately improve patient safety.”


For further information please contact:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
(01) 8147480 / 086 2447623

Notes to editor:

  • This review is part of an overall review programme being undertaken by HIQA to assess compliance with the Information Management Standards in all major national health and social care data collections within the HSE in Ireland. A considerable amount of data is collected on a regular basis about health and social care services in Ireland. This data is used for many important purposes, such as to guide clinical decision-making, monitor diseases, organise services, inform policy making, conduct high-quality research and plan for future health and social care needs, both at national and local levels. Ultimately, the review programme aims to drive quality improvements by identifying areas of good practice and areas where improvements are necessary across national data collections.
  • The Information management standards for national health and social care data can be found at
  • A Guide to the Review Programme for national data collections can be found at
  • Information management is defined as the process of collecting, storing, managing, using and sharing health and social care information. It is a broad definition that includes the aspects of governance and management arrangements, data quality, information governance and use of information.
  • BreastCheck is a population-based breast screening programme, which is currently for women aged 50 to 66. It currently provides screening to women through a network of four static units and 19 mobile units, and has a workforce of almost 200 whole-time equivalent staff members of which 70% are clinical staff. The managing organisation with responsibility for BreastCheck is the National Screening Service within the Health Service Executive (HSE). 
  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be enacted across all EU Member States on the 25 May 2018.
  • A catalogue of all national health and social care data collections in Ireland was first published in 2010 and was most recently updated in 2017 — Catalogue of National Health and Social Care Data Collections in Ireland. The current catalogue features 120 data collections. National health and social care data collections vary in size from large data repositories, such as the National Perinatal Reporting System (NPRS), to smaller patient registries, such as the Alpha-1 Research Registry.