Sunday 21 April 2019

'I thought it was the place to go' - couple slate cancer helpline's red-tape delays

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Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

A Dublin couple have told of their frustration at new demands being made by the CervicalCheck helpline for information, weeks after they first contacted it.

Damian Tyrrell said that his sister-in-law Brenda Gleeson (50) died in 2013, having been diagnosed with secondary tumours in 2012.

"At no stage could anyone say where the primary tumour had originated," he told 'Liveline' host Joe Duffy yesterday.

With all the publicity about CervicalCheck, it was playing on his wife Denise's mind and she first rang the hotline on May 1, and was informed they would be in touch. She rang the helpline a number of other times, but did not hear back from them.

Mr Tyrrell, from Finglas, said he himself rang and was informed on Tuesday that, under new data regulations, he must now submit the request for information ensuring it is marked "Freedom of Information", and attach or post a copy of his passport or driver's licence.

He said he did not feel he should have to do this, given the regulations only came into effect on May 25, and his wife first contacted the helpline on May 1.

He said his sister-in-law had been attending her doctor with intermittent bleeding and lower back pain.

He added if the helpline had said initially that they would be in touch in six weeks or two months, there would have been no problem.

Speaking to the 'Irish Independent', Ms Tyrrell said she had made four phone calls over seven weeks to the helpline, and had received no call-back and no information. When she rang on June 5, she was told the new data regulations had come in.

She stressed she did not know if her sister had cervical cancer, but had been contacting the helpline for information. "I hope to God that she didn't. Her oncologist was terrific. We knew it was a terminal diagnosis. This was set up for anybody with concerns when this scandal broke. I thought that was the place to go, the number to ring, to get your reassurance one way or the other."

Ms Tyrrell said she was subsequently contacted by the helpline yesterday afternoon, and was advised to contact her sister's GP. "That was the first contact I have had from them since May 1."

The HSE said it does not comment on individual cases. It added: "There has been no change in the way that CervicalCheck are currently responding to individuals who call the information line since the since General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came in on May 25.

"When someone calls the helpline, their name and details are taken and information is passed on to the person who can deal with the call most appropriately."

Irish Independent

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