Belfast Telegraph

Harris to establish if all cervical smear controversy women have been informed

Minister has also described the treatment of terminally ill Vicky Phelan as ‘wrong’.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he hopes to establish on Monday if all those affected by the cervical smear controversy have been informed.

However, he does not know how many women may have died and said everyone who has had a smear test could have a re-check if they wanted it.

Speaking on RTE’s The Week In Politics programme, Mr Harris also described as “wrong” the treatment of Vicky Phelan, the terminally ill mother whose legal battle cast light on the issue.

He said: “It is wrong that any terminally ill woman would be dragged through the courts.”

Earlier this week Ms Phelan, a 43-year-old mother of two from Co Limerick, settled a High Court action for 2.5 million euro after being incorrectly told in 2011 that her smear test had given a negative result for cancer.

In 2014 she was diagnosed with cancer but only told of the false negative last September.

Mr Harris said he would “not be found wanting” in changing the system.

We need to change the law Simon Harris

He added: “One of the reasons it went to the courts was because Vicky wasn’t told what she had a right to be told years ago and I am going to make sure that never happens again.

“We need to change the law.”

An unpublished audit of cervical checks discovered in 2014 found that 206 women with cervical cancer who had undergone smear tests should have received earlier intervention.

The minister has already announced a number of actions including a major review and set up a helpline for those who fear they may be affected by the controversy.

He said the screening programme had saved lives but that it would be “arrogant” and “complacent” to suggest it could not be improved.

On Saturday Dr Grainne Flannelly, the clinical director of CervicalCheck, Ireland’s national screening programme, announced she was stepping down and apologised for any distress and worry caused to women.

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