Belfast Telegraph

Concerns cervical screening programme report will escape proper scrutiny

The CervicalCheck scandal in 2018 saw women with cervical cancer not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate.

The CervicalCheck scandal in 2018 saw around 221 women with cervical cancer not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate (David Davies/PA)
The CervicalCheck scandal in 2018 saw around 221 women with cervical cancer not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate (David Davies/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Concerns have been flagged by health committee members that a report on CervicalCheck could be pushed through without scrutiny.

The Health Committee heard on Wednesday, that the Royal College of Gynaecologists UK (RCOG) will visit on December 18 to discuss their report on CervicalCheck.

The review was set up by the Department of Health and aims to provide more than 1,000 women who took part in CervicalCheck, and who developed cervical cancer, with clinical assurance about the timing of their diagnosis and treatment.

RCOG will also send their aggregate report to Minister for Health Simon Harris. This will summarise the overall findings of the review and make recommendations for the CervicalCheck programme, and then be made public.

I've a deep concern over the timelines here, I just feel that it's been pushed out Alan Kelly

Upon receiving the letter from RCOG, Labour TD Alan Kelly requested it be discussed in public session of the committee, due to its importance.

The Dail is not sitting on the 18th, and Mr Kelly, has flagged his concern that the report could be pushed through over Christmas without scrutiny.

“My concerns have been public for some time, and I’m very concerned with this letter,” Mr Kelly said.

“I think the timelines associated with this letter are worrying, and the fact that they want to bring it in here on the last day effectively of Dail sitting, releasing this information at the time is concerning.

“So, all the work is done, by the way, this is what was meant to be done by last May, then done by September, then October.

“I’ve a deep concern over the timelines here, I just feel that it’s been pushed out.

“This report being brought in here around the 18th of December, and then to be released publicly, at Christmas time, scrutiny will not be at the same level as potentially should be for such a serious issue.”

Mr Kelly said there were “inherent issues” with the letter, including concerns over privacy and the HSE’s practice of identifying women to contact them, which he claims broke the HSE’s own privacy rules.

The chairman, Independent TD Michael Harty replied that the committee will carry on scrutiny of the report and if it takes more than one session, the group will meet on an ad-hoc basis.

“So, we will have to meet on the 18th, and we will have them in a subsequent meeting if we need to,” he said.

“There are some odd things happening, and some women who are not in the 221-plus group, and should’ve been, and on the back of RCOG review are quietly being invited in,” Fianna Fail’s Steven Donnelly added.

“There are funny things going on that won’t percolate through unless we hear from these women, it’s the kind of information that might get missed in a session just with officials.”

The group agreed they would contact some of the women who took part in the study and hear from them during committee scrutiny to get a fuller picture of how the review was carried out with regards to patients.

The CervicalCheck scandal in 2018 saw around 221 women with cervical cancer not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate, and that revised test results were kept from them.

A small minority of the 221 women at the heart of the 2018 controversy are involved in the RCOG review, many of these women are or have previously taken legal cases against the state while more than 20 have died.

The review into a cervical cancer scandal in Ireland by UK health expert Dr Gabriel Scally found there were “serious gaps” in governance and expertise and failure across the whole system of a cervical screening programme.

Alan Kelly ended the meeting discussion adding: “I’d love to hear Dr Scally’s view on this.”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph