CervicalCheck IT glitch ‘unacceptable’, HSE chief clinical officer says

Re-tests showed over 50 women not told they had tested positive for human papillomavirus (HPV)

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.


An apparent IT glitch that affected hundreds of women accessing the CervicalCheck screening programme is “unacceptable and shouldn’t have happened”, the HSE’s chief clinical officer has said.

Dr Colm Henry said the clinical risk to women at the centre of the incident is low but that “first and foremost” it was important to determine if those concerned had spoken to their GP in order to determine if they need to be sent on for further examination.

Some 800 women had repeat screening test results, mainly checking for human papillomavirus (HPV), delayed and 52 who previously tested negative for the vitus, tested positive.

The HSE said on Tuesday that it learned last week that US company Quest Diagnostics had failed to send the test results to the women’s GPs. It said the tests were on samples which had been re-tested because their original mRNA HPV test was carried out outside the manufacturer’s recommended timeframe.

Dr Henry told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the re-tests were a precautionary measure and that because of the glitch the results of these were sent manually to the GPs without the women being told they had come back.

He said that of the 52 women involved, 26 had been referred for further investigation. The priority now, he said, was to ensure that the other 26 need to know to go speak to their GP “to put their minds at ease”.

He apologised for what had occurred and said “we need to find out what happened and correct any deficits”.

Campaigner Lorraine Walsh, whose misdiagnosed smears deprived her of the opportunity of having a child, told the same programme that the latest incident was a “complete breakdown” and a “complete failure”.

She said there was a need to ensure “that these things stop happening” and that it cannot be verified that all 52 women affected have been informed of the issue.

“There are lots of questions that the women of Ireland deserve answers to. They want to know what happened and why we were not told,” she said.

She said she was disappointed that information about the “glitch” had not been shared with the CervicalCheck steering committee of which she is a member.

“What other information are we not getting?,” Ms Walsh asked.