Sunday 22 September 2019

Department of Health release documents showing communication on CervicalCheck crisis

Simon Harris
Simon Harris Newsdesk Newsdesk

The Department of Health have released over 100 pages of documents that catalogue the communications between various parties in relation to the CervicalCheck crisis.

The documents, the first of which is dated March 3, 2016, shows memos, e-mails and other communications involving the HSE, the National Cancer Screening Service and the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan.

The documents released this evening include the three memos from 2016 that were released to the Public Accounts Committee last week that preceded the early departure of outgoing HSE Director General Tony O'Brien.

Speaking in the Dáil earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The documents confirm that they were not escalated, these issues were not escalated to ministers, advisers or the Secretary General.”

Mr Varadkar added: “The documents released today will show that none of this was escalated beyond from the office of CMO (chief medical officer) and the office of acute hospital services and that the concerns that the department was dealing with was concerns about open disclosure, about cervical check passing on information of the audit to clinicians.

“There’s nothing about concerns around laboratories, the efficacy, the accuracy of the programme, or patient safety.”

The first memo, dating from March 2016 notes that cervical screening is not 100pc accurate and cannot give a 'yes' or 'no'  answer and a negative screening result does not mean that cancer won't develop in the future.

It said that at that as of March 2016 the process was approaching the stage of communicating individual case reports arising from the clinical audit with the clinicians looking after individual women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The memo warns: "There is always a risk that in communicating individual case reports to clinicians of an individual patient reacting by contacting the media if they feel that 'screening did not diagnose my cancer'.

"This is a risk that is inherent in having a clinical audit process," it adds.

"Most importantly during the conduct of the clinical audit to date no systematic quality problem of concern as been idenitfied."

Members of the PAC said they were "shocked" by the contents of the memo when it was released last week.

More to follow...

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