CervicalCheck controversy - 17 have died

Vicky Phelan

'In addition I am appointing an International Clinical Expert Panel to provide the women concerned with an individual clinical review.

The results of an audit into the CervicalCheck controversy were released today.

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Ms Phelan said that the revelations by Dr Gibbons - who revealed he warned the then CEO of the National Cancer Screening Service Tony O'Brien that the outsourcing of cervical smear tests to the United States would lead to missed cases or misdiagnoses - rendered an apology by Mr O'Brien extended to her last week as "null and void".

Reacting to the news that there is to be an inquiry into the scandal, Ms Phelan said: "What I don't want to see is - the minute I heard that announcement this morning it raised waning signals with me - what I don't want to see is an inquiry or tribunal that's going to take years and is going to be dragged out".

"It will also try to understand why these appalling communication failures happened and also look at the laboratory testing and whether a different form of testing might have reduced the number of false negatives".

Today, the HSE confirmed today that 17 women whose cases were reviewed as part of an audit into the CervicalCheck controversy have died.

Mr. O'Carroll, the lawyer for Ms. Phelan, said that the Health Service Executive, the Irish government body that oversees the screening program, and CPL, which were joint defendants in her case, had pursued a prolonged and aggressive defense, demanding that she prove she had suffered actual loss from the delayed diagnosis, and making her spend three days in court before they settled.

All of the other women affected would also be informed by Tuesday and given an appointment with a clinician free of charge.

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She also revealed that Minister for Health Simon Harris called her personally to apologise. It is planned that this will be achieved for the majority of women by the end of this week.

He said a "roadmap" is now needed on what should happen next, and stressed the Government must do all it can to re-assure the public as to the competence and safety of the CervicalCheck smear test system.

"I don't think anyone could have imagined the magnitude of this".

The helpline will stay open until 6 this evening and the HSE says call-backs are underway.

On Monday, we learned that the number of women who should have been contacted about a review into their smear test results over a 10-year period had risen from 206 to 208.

"We're carrying out roughly 250,000 smears per annum, we're after reducing the incidents of cervical cancer by 7%", said Dr Jordan.

CervicalCheck can be contacted on 1800 454555.

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