Friday 23 August 2019

Review into latest CervicalCheck issue under way

The probe is to investigate how 800 Irish women did not receive their smear test results because of an IT issue at a US lab.

A review into the latest issue in the CervicalCheck scandal has started (Brian Lawless/PA)
A review into the latest issue in the CervicalCheck scandal has started (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The investigation into the latest CervicalCheck issue has begun and is due to be finished in August.

The review is to investigate how 800 Irish women did not receive their smear test results because of an IT issue at a US lab.

The HSE says the issue relates to one of Quest Diagnostics’ laboratories based at Chantilly in Virginia which had delayed issuing cervical screening HPV retest results to some women and their GPs, due to IT problems that impacted on how result letters were electronically triggered.

Since the reports reached the media last week, Paul Reid, CEO of the HSE, has commissioned an independent rapid review to determine the facts.

Professor Brian MacCraith, president of Dublin City University, was announced as chairman of the CervicalCheck Rapid Review on Monday. He says he has met with Mr Reid and the review has begun.

The HSE CEO impressed upon me the need for the review to be completed as quickly as possible and I have committed to reporting to him by August 2 Professor Brian MacCraith

“Yesterday I met with the CEO of the HSE, Paul Reid, and agreed with him that I would undertake an independent review of specific issues that have been the subject of much public commentary since last week in relation to the CervicalCheck screening programme,” he said.

“My review, which commenced today, will proceed according to the terms of reference published yesterday.”

The terms of reference include: to determine the complete chronology of events from the time the IT issues first emerged up to the public reporting, to establish the process for the communication of results to women, and to determine the adequacy of the response once the issues emerged.

“The review will examine the series of events within the Cervical Check programme that occurred following reported IT issues in Quest Diagnostics relating to the HPV test expiration for a number of women and the retesting process,” Mr MacCraith added.

“The period of the review will be from the time the IT issues first emerged up to, and including, the public reporting of these issues on the July 11 2019, and confined to those events.

“The HSE CEO impressed upon me the need for the review to be completed as quickly as possible and I have committed to reporting to him by August 2.”

Mr MacCraith said he wished to underline a number of points about the review as he would not be making any further statements until its completion.

“1. The review is independent and is being carried out solely by me. Otherwise I would not have agreed to take on this role.

“2. In order to collect the information I require to conduct the review as quickly as possible, I will be supported by a number of HSE staff. These staff will be working solely under my direction in this matter.

“3. The HSE CEO and I have agreed that I will have access to any external expert advice that I may require during the course of the review.

“4. In order to ensure that the concerns of patient representatives inform the process of the review, I have commenced discussions with prominent patient representatives including Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh.

“I have also spoken with ‘Sharon’, the patient who brought this matter into the public domain. I will meet with patients this week and have committed to keeping them informed of progress throughout the review.

“5. The full review report will be published.”

This new information raises many questions and in the interest of clarity the minister now needs to clarify his timeline of events and confirm what he knew, and when he knew it Sinn Fein health spokeswoman Louise O'Reilly

Minister for Health Simon Harris has come under criticism from political rivals over when and how he was made aware of the issue.

Sinn Fein health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly has called on the minister to clarify what he knew.

“The minister states he did not become aware of the issue until July 10,” she said.

“However, new correspondence shows the minister’s office were contacted about the matter on June 6 and a reply was issued in the minister’s name intimating he had been made aware of the matter.

“This new information raises many questions and in the interest of clarity the minister now needs to clarify his timeline of events and confirm what he knew, and when he knew it.

“This is a matter which should have been immediately brought to the minister’s attention, and if he is claiming it was not, then it raises questions about why his department was not willing or capable of bringing it to his attention.”

A spokesman for the minister said: “The minister’s position has not changed. It was already known there was correspondence between the department and the individual whose case highlighted the latest CervicalCheck issue.

“The department immediately engaged with the HSE to seek clarity about what the issue was.

“This report was received on July 10.

“The minister was informed of the issue that evening.”

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