Monday 15 October 2018

CervicalCheck cancer reviews still not given to some women

The reviews came to light after Vicky Phelan brought a High Court case and refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The reviews came to light after Vicky Phelan brought a High Court case and refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some of the 209 women who developed cervical cancer after getting an incorrect smear test have still not received a copy of the CervicalCheck internal review confirming the mistake, the Irish Independent has learned.

Although the cancer scandal is now in its fifth week, a number of women are still waiting to meet their treating consultant to discuss the review.

The meetings will take place between the women and their doctors only this week or next.

It emerged last month that 162 of the 209 women or their families did not get their reviews after CervicalCheck released them in 2016.

Damning memos revealed that CervicalCheck, which sent the reviews to the patients' doctors at the time, advised them to use their judgment about passing them on and to just put them on file in the event the woman had died.

Nobody in the HSE tracked the reports to confirm whether the women received them.

The reviews came to light after Vicky Phelan, the Limerick mother-of-two who developed cervical cancer in 2014 after getting a wrong test result in 2011, brought a High Court case and refused to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The perception has been that all of the women or their relatives were belatedly given the reviews in recent weeks.

Two of the women remain untraced, including one person who is living in Ukraine.

The HSE issues a daily update on the CervicalCheck crisis but has declined to say how many women have received their reviews.

It set up a special incident group to administer various aspects of the scandal, including the release of the reviews, and a CervicalCheck helpline.

Health Minister Simon Harris recently told the Dáil that 30 clinicians were contacted by CervicalCheck on foot of the smear test review.

At that stage, he said: "A total 205 of the 209 women, or their next of kin, where the audit showed their test could have provided a different result, have been contacted and efforts are continuing to contact the remaining women."

However, he did not say how many of these women got their reviews or were invited to a consultation with the consultant.

It is understood that in a number of cases women have met their consultant but have been informed they have to go through "official channels" via CervicalCheck to get their review.

Dr Gabriel Scally, a former NHS public-health doctor who was appointed to investigate the scandal, is due to report next month.

He is understood to have secured documentation and interviewed a number of key people in recent weeks.

The scoping investigation is to be followed by a wider inquiry.

He will also investigate the quality of the laboratory smear testing which is currently carried out, although there is no evidence that it is sub-standard.

Mr Harris got a briefing note in relation to Ms Phelan's legal case a number of days before it came before the High Court.

He said he had interpreted it as saying all the women had received their reviews at that stage but this turned out to be incorrect.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News