Another 60 women have applied to join the support group for those affected by the CervicalCheck controversy after an independent review of their smear tests found abnormalities were missed.
The women are among hundreds who have received a “discordant” result from a review of their slides led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the UK.
This means the review – which re-examined the slides of more than 1,000 women who had been tested for the disease under CervicalCheck, were given the all-clear and later developed cancer – produced a result that was different from the original finding by CervicalCheck, with possible implications for the women’s treatment and health outcomes.
Mandatory open disclosure
An overview report from RCOG is due to go before Cabinet on Tuesday, after which it will be published. The Government also plans to publish new patient safety legislation after Cabinet, which will provide for mandatory open disclosure of serious incidents in the health services, as well as the licensing of public and private hospitals.
The additional women who have contacted the 221+ Patient Support Group on foot of the RCOG review are likely to qualify for the same set of supports that were made available to the original group when the CervicalCheck controversy erupted last year.
With up to 30 per cent of the 1,000 slides re-examined in the review producing some form of discordant result, it is likely they will be joined by more women seeking supports as well as access to the tribunal being set up to process claims in private.
A significant proportion of the cases examined by RCOG were designated for priority processing, though in some instances this was because the women involved were dead or were already members of the 221+ group.
The RCOG review is also expected to say the performance of the CervicalCheck programme is "broadly in line" with that of cervical cancer screening programmes in the UK. It has told Minister for Health Simon Harris the "performance characteristics" of the cervical cancer screening programme – its ability to accurately identify women who have cervical cancer, and those who do not – "appear to be broadly in line with experience in the UK".
The review looked at slides processed from 2008 up to last year and does not relate to the current operations of CervicalCheck, whose governance has been overhauled since last year’s controversy.
Under the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill being brought to Cabinet, doctors will have to notify patients and their employers of serious incidents, and the incidents will have to be notified externally to watchdogs such as the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) and the Mental Health Commission. The definition of a serious incident will be made in regulations, rather than the legislation itself.
Mandatory open disclosure and the external reporting of incidents will apply equally to the public and private health services. The Bill also includes provisions on clinical audit and extends Hiqa’s remit to private hospitals for the first time.
Hospitals will have to disclose all known information about an incident, including the consequences, as well as an apology if appropriate, and what actions have been taken to prevent a recurrence.
Mr Harris is also expected to amend the legislation at committee stage to give the Minister effective powers in relation to investigations of patient safety incidents. These have been constrained since a High Court judgment last year.