CervicalCheck: at least 120 women to receive €20,000 each

Cabinet approves payments for women who were not informed of smear test audit

Dr Gabriel Scally: according to his report, disclosure of the audit occurred in just 43 cases. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Dr Gabriel Scally: according to his report, disclosure of the audit occurred in just 43 cases. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

 

At least 120 women who were not told of an audit of their smear tests under the CervicalCheck screening programme are to receive ex-gratia payments of €20,000 each.

The Cabinet approved the payments for non-disclosure of the CervicalCheck audit, which are in line with the recommendation of an independent panel, at its weekly meeting on Tuesday.

Department of Health has written to affected women telling them to expect payment of the compensation shortly.

“The scheme remains open, and those individuals who have not yet applied can still do so,” the letter advises.

The payments will be made to women who apply and where the independent panel has determined that appropriate disclosure did not take place.

More than 221 women were affected by the CervicalCheck controversy. The women involved had developed cervical cancer, after which an audit of their earlier tests was carried out. This revealed discordant results but most of the women were not told. In some cases, their treatment might have been different if a different interpretation had been placed on their slides.

According to last year’s Scally report on the controversy, of the 204 women then known to have been affected, disclosure of the audit occurred in just 43 cases. In most of the 161 cases of non-disclosure, no reason for this was recorded.

The department said 121 women had applied. In the cases of 90, non-disclosure was determined so payments are expected quickly.

Optional tribunal

Separately, Minister for Health Simon Harris brought to Cabinet legislation to establish a tribunal for women affected by the controversy.

The proposal follows recommendations of Mr Justice Charles Meenan and will establish an adjudicative tribunal.

The tribunal, which will be chaired by Ms Justice Mary Irvine, will be optional. Women, or their next of kin, can still choose to go to court.

The tribunal’s hearings will be held in private, unless the woman or the next of kin requests they be held in public. A plan for “trust meetings” will also be discussed at Cabinet.

The tribunal will be expected to facilitate these meetings, and they will allow the women, or the next of kin, to discuss their experiences in relation to CervicalCheck.

The content of these meetings will not be used in any legal proceedings but a report on these matters can be sent to the Minister.

The establishment of a tribunal was first recommended by Justice Meenan in a report that was given to Government last October.

Mr Harris commissioned the report in response to controversy over the screening programme sparked by Limerick woman Vicky Phelan, who has cervical cancer, settling a High Court action in April over the reading of her smear test.

The tribunal will be open to the 221 women involved in the CervicalCheck audit, along with individuals who are identified during a review being undertaken by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the UK, where this review presents “findings discordant with those of the original cytology examination”.