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Holohan’s ‘huge amount of regret’ over Cervical Check controversy

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said a ‘very significant harm’ had been done to the women affected by the issues.

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Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

The chief medical officer has said he has a “huge amount of regret” over what happened to the women affected by the cervical check screening controversy.

Dr Tony Holohan also said he has “enormous sympathy” for women because a basic commitment was not honoured.

He described the failure to inform the women of the clinical audit of their screening as “wrong” and that it “simply should not have happened”.

I have a huge amount of regret to what's happened to women in those situationsChief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan

On Wednesday, Lynsey Bennett, a 32-year-old mother-of-two who is seriously ill with cervical cancer settled a High Court action over alleged misinterpretation of cervical smears.

There was settlement but no admission of liability. A letter of regret was read out in the court from the head of the Cervical Check national screening programme but there was no apology.

It is two years since the controversy came to light after Limerick mother Vicky Phelan brought a case before the courts.

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Vicky Phelan, the cancer patient whose case triggered the cervical smear test controversy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Vicky Phelan, the cancer patient whose case triggered the cervical smear test controversy (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Vicky Phelan, the cancer patient whose case triggered the cervical smear test controversy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Asked at the Nphet briefing on Thursday whether he wanted to apologise to the women affected by the issue, Dr Holohan said: “I have a huge amount of regret to what’s happened to women in those situations.

“[I have] enormous sympathy for the women concerned because it was a basic commitment to women that wasn’t honoured,” he added.

“Each women in that situation believed and had every reason to believe that this information would be shared.

“It wasn’t shared so the failure, which was at the centre of the Cervical Check, the failure to feed back the information that was gleaned from retrospective clinical audit was something that simply shouldn’t have happened.”

Dr Holohan also said: “A very significant harm has been done to people who have had the experience over the course of the last number of years.

“The harm at the centre of cervical check was that there was not disclosure to women of the findings of a retrospective clinical audit of their care.

“Where there was a commitment to give that commitment back to individuals the information wasn’t in fact given to those individuals.

“There was significant hurt for those individuals.”

He said the controversy was investigated in detail and the Cervical Check programme was found to have “met the quality standards” but there were findings of “substantial wrong about the failure to share info with women”.

“A lot of learning has been gleaned from those experiences and is now been applied into the ongoing operation of the programme,” he added.

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