CervicalCheck: €5m payment scheme approved
Women affected by non-disclosure of audit expected to get about €25,000 each
Dr Gabriel Scally, who last June recommended that women affected be given an interim ex-gratia payment of €2,000 each. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Hundreds of women caught up in the CervicalCheck controversy will be able to apply for ex-gratia payments within weeks under a €5-million scheme approved by the Government on Monday.
The scheme will be open to the 221 women with cervical cancer, or their next of kin in cases where they have died, who were not told of an audit that was carried out on their smear tests after their diagnosis.
The level of payment has not yet been set, but is expected to be about €25,000 each, based on the settlement reached in a court case last year.
Announcing the formal setting-up of the scheme, Minister for Health Simon Harris said it would apply to women from the group who were found in the CervicalCheck audit to have “discordance” in their smear test results and where this finding was not disclosed “in an appropriate or timely fashion”.
Although the tests were not read properly, it remains unclear to what extent negligence was involved.
The Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the scheme at its meeting on Monday, and also approved the appointment of an independent assessment panel to determine the amount to be paid to the women in respect of the non-disclosure of the audit results.
Former High Court judge Mr Justice Aindrias Ó Caoimh was appointed last week to chair the panel. The other members, a clinician and a “person of good standing”, have yet to be appointed.
“The scheme is designed to provide an alternative, non-adversarial and person-centred option for women affected by the CervicalCheck non-disclosure issue,” Mr Harris said. “It is anticipated that it will be up and running in the coming weeks.”
Last June, Northern Irish public health doctor Gabriel Scally, who was appointed to investigate the controversy, recommended the women affected be given an interim ex-gratia payment of €2,000 each. Any payments under the new scheme will be in addition to this.
Women accepting ex-gratia payments for non-disclosure will be free to pursue other legal claims.
A separate statutory tribunal is being established to provide an alternative to court cases for claims arising out of the CervicalCheck controversy. This process has been delayed by the need for enabling legislation and the urgency currently attached to Brexit-related legislation.
However, the general scheme of legislation to set up the tribunal is expected to be ready in a month’s time and will be prioritised thereafter, according to a spokeswoman for Mr Harris.
It is anticipated that laboratories involved in reading smear tests would be liable for any incorrect reading of the tests.