Sunday 27 May 2018

Who is the doctor leading the scoping inquiry into the cervical cancer screening scandal and what will he be examining?

Health Minister Simon Harris and HSE director general Tony O’Brien. Photo: Tom Burke
Health Minister Simon Harris and HSE director general Tony O’Brien. Photo: Tom Burke

Eilish O'Regan and Laura Larkin

Dr Gabriel Scally, the Belfast-born, former NHS doctor who is to carry out a scoping inquiry into CervicalCheck arrived in Ireland today and has started work.

The inquiry will examine key elements of the scandal including why so many of the 209 women who developed cancer after getting an incorrect smear test result were not informed an internal review was carried out on their case.

It will also examine the quality of testing, the out-sourcing of analysing smear tests to a laboratory in the United States as well as the role of the HSE and Department of Children.

Vicky Phelan, the Limerick mother of two who has terminal cervical cancer, and whose case lifted the lid on the scandal, is to have a key role in steering the terms of reference of the scoping inquiry.

Here is everything you need to know:

Who is the doctor leading the scoping inquiry into the cervical cancer screening scandal?

A scoping inquiry into the smear test scandal gets underway today. It is due to look at a number of issues including tendering process and the withholding of audit results from affected women. Other screening programmes will also be examined as part of the process.

Dr Gabriel Scally - a Belfast trained specialist in public health - will lead the preliminary investigation into the cervical smear test scandal.

What is Dr Scally's experience?

Gabriel Scally trained first in general practice and then in public health. He has held senior roles at both the UK's Department of Health and the NHS. He also holds a number of academic roles including as Professor of Public Health and Planning in the University of the West of England.

This is a major scandal concerning a national screening programme, does he have any experience of something like this?

Dr Scally has “widespread experience” in conducting reviews of this type, Health Minister Simon Harris said today.

These investigations include a review into clinical failures in pathology in a Swindon hospital and an NHS review of the  commission of care and treatment for patients at the Winterbourne View private hospital in the UK, which found patients suffered abuse.

What will happen next?

Dr Scally is to meet with Minister Harris today and he will also reach out to Vicky Phelan, the woman whose case shone a light on the issues with the screening programme. Other women affected by the scandal are also invited to participate in the scoping inquiry.

When will we find out the results of the investigation?

Dr Scally will report back to the Minister for Health by the end of next month setting out his findings but he has also been instructed to report any significant information immediately, which will be released to the public.

A progress report is due to be published by Dr Scally in the first week of June.

It is expected that a full inquiry will follow later this year.

Have other experts been drafted in?

Dr Scally has also asked an international expert in women's health, Dr Karin Denton, Consultant in Cellular Pathology North Bristol NHS Trust and previously Regional Head of Screening Quality Assurance Public Health England, to provide assistance in the review.

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