Wednesday 17 October 2018

Over 2,000 people contact HSE's CervicalCheck helpline in three days

  • Helpline established Friday morning for women concerned about cervical screening results
  • Former Clinical Director of CervicalCheck, Dr Gráinne Flannelly stood down from her position last night
  • Health Minister Harris rang Vicky Phelan to personally apologise for what happened to her
  • Vicky Phelan says at least three women have died in connection with cervical smear testing errors
  • Harris said he had lost confidence in senior management in CervicalCheck
STRENGTH: Vicky Phelan photographed in Limerick yesterday Photo: Fergal Phillips
STRENGTH: Vicky Phelan photographed in Limerick yesterday Photo: Fergal Phillips
Vicky Phelan from Annacotty, Co. Limerick, pictured speaking to the media on leaving the Four Courts Picture: Collins Courts
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

More than 2,000 people who are worried about their smear tests results have contacted the HSE's CervicalCheck helpline, the HSE has confirmed.

The helpline was established on Friday morning and was set up for women concerned about their cervical screening results.

They also said that an investigation into 206 cases relating to cytology audits that suggested a different result to the original has "advanced well" over the past few days and will be mostly complete by tomorrow.

They said in a statement: "The HSE Serious Incident Management Team (SIMT) which was established on Friday 27th April 2018 met today on two occasions in order to progress further a full review of 206 cases within the CervicalCheck Programme.

"These 206 cases relate to cytology audits that suggested a different result from the original and that would have recommended an investigation to occur at an earlier stage.

"The review has been challenging as it involves verifying particular information from 13 sites across the country. The sites in question have been very responsive to the request for information and the review has advanced well over the weekend.

Vicky Phelan and family
Vicky Phelan and family

"It is expected that it - for the most part - will be completed tomorrow. The Chair of the SIMT will present the review to the DG of the HSE."

The statement continued to say: "Once the Review has been completed, the next step involves contacting all of those women whom, it has been found, have not been contacted to date.

"These women will be contacted over the course of tomorrow and offered an appointment during the week to discuss the findings of the audit as concerns them.

"This is likely to be a complex task due to the numbers involved and the availability of those being contacted, some of whom are outside of the jurisdiction either temporarily or permanently.

"The SIMT was informed that the helpline was once again very busy today. As of 1:30pm there were 614 contacts.

"The process of call-backs to these callers has commenced. It is expected that each call-back is likely to take between 10 and 30 minutes depending on the nature of the call.

Vicky Phelan and husband Jim outside the High Court. Picture: Courtpix
Vicky Phelan and husband Jim outside the High Court. Picture: Courtpix

"By close of business today it is expected that over 2,000 calls will have been taken by the helpline."

Read More: Using her precious time to shine a light on the rot

This comes as Vicky Phelan, who has terminal cancer, claimed that three Irish women whose smear test results had to be audited have died.

In an extensive interview in today's Sunday Independent, Ms Phelan reveals that when she was told in September 2017 that she was one of 10 women whose test results were being examined in 2014, she asked had any of them died.

"[My doctor] told me he knew of three," she says.

On The Week in Politics on RTÉ Minister for Health Simon Harris said he did not know how many women may have died in connection with the cervical smear testing failures.

Former Clinical Director of CervicalCheck, Dr Gráinne Flannelly stood down from her position last night.

She told the HSE of her intention to resign  saying she was sorry that recent events caused distress and worry to women.

Dr Flannelly said she had decided to step aside to allow the service continue its important work.

"I would like this evening to announce that I have taken a decision to stand aside from my role as Clinical Director of CervicalCheck with immediate effect.

"I am sorry that recent events caused distress and worry to women. I have decided to step aside to allow the Programme to continue it's important work.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of the doctors, nurses and programme staff of CervicalCheck for their continued hard work and commitment towards delivering a first-class service for the women of Ireland."

Read More: Vicky Phelan says Simon Harris called her personally to apologise

Earlier the Minister for Health Simon Harris said he had lost confidence in senior management in CervicalCheck.

A temporary medical team has been installed to examine patient records and reviews with the aim of communicating all information to women involved.

Ms Phelan, the terminally ill woman whose incorrect cancer test result has shone a light on the CervicalCheck programme, has revealed that Minister for Health Simon Harris called her personally to apologise.

Ms Phelan revealed on the Ray D'Arcy Show on RTÉ 1 last night that Minster Harris rang her to personally apologise for what happened to her.

"As soon as I heard the voice I knew who it was and he said 'hi Vicky, it is Simon Harris here'," Ms Phelan explained.

"'I just wanted to call you personally to apologise for what has happened to you but he also wanted to thank me for still encouraging women to go for smears and for promoting the Cervical screening programme' he said.

"I said to him basically look, what has happened to me is awful. I do believe in the programme, cervical smears do save women's lives and what I don't want to happen is more women diagnosed with cervical cancer and I thought it was important that I come out and say that because I think people would listen to me rather than the HSE at the moment."

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