Friday 6 December 2019

Women will get results before CervicalCheck report published

Louise O'Reilly. Photo: Collins
Louise O'Reilly. Photo: Collins
John Downing

John Downing

A new expert report into the CervicalCheck controversy will be published only after all 1,000 women involved are given their individual results, the Taoiseach has pledged.

Leo Varadkar said it had been agreed with patient advocates that the report of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists would be made available only when each woman had had a meeting with experts or been informed in writing about their results.

The Taoiseach also said he hoped this second audit of CervicalCheck would avoid previous mistakes.

"I do hope we will handle it better this time," he added.

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Mr Varadkar was responding to questions in the Dáil from Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O'Reilly.

She had called for the report to be published after media revelations about the college's review of the screening scandal. These reports revealed that a large number of previously missed abnormalities had been uncovered through the college's review of the smear tests carried out over a period of 10 years by the CervicalCheck cancer screening programme.

The cervical cancer controversy erupted last year when it emerged more than 2,220 women with cervical cancer were not informed that an audit had been carried out on their CervicalCheck tests. Ms O'Reilly said there was "shock and frustration" about the report as the college was supposed to report more than a year ago but it had been dogged by difficulties.

The Dublin Fingal TD also expressed concern that the first women were hearing about the developments was in a newspaper.

Ms O'Reilly said that "possibly hundreds" of women were affected in the review, which found hundreds of "discordant" results after re-examining the slides of more than 1,000 women who had been tested for the disease under CervicalCheck, and then incorrectly given the all-clear.

The Sinn Féin spokeswoman said the family of Fiona Prendergast, who died in 2015, had been advised of the results in her case and were coming to terms with that.

But it was very difficult for her widower and family to read the newspaper report.

Calling on the Taoiseach to speed the process up, she said potentially hundreds of women were waiting for letters "and they read in the paper today that there are possibly hundreds of people affected by this".

She said the situation was an insult to those women, and added: "We have had numerous assurances that this wouldn't happen again and it has happened."

Mr Varadkar accepted Ms O'Reilly's comments. "I absolutely agree with you that we should stop any leaking to the media," the Taoiseach said.

He said he was not familiar with Ms Prendergast's case and would not like to comment on it but to offer his condolences to her family.

He also stressed that in every 100 cases screened, 12 cases would be detected.

Irish Independent

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