CervicalCheck report set to be sharply critical of screening failures

Scally report to recommend overhaul, and automatic informing of errors to women

The Scally report into the CervicalCheck controversy, which will be published today, will recommend an overhaul of the existing screening system and that women be automatically informed of any errors in their cases.

The report, by Dr Gabriel Scally of the UK’s Royal Society of Medicine, identified “serious system flaws” in the screening process, sources said.

The report is expected to be sharply critical of failures in the smear test programme but does not single out any individuals for blame.

The failure to communicate new information to women after an audit of the process will be strongly condemned.


However, the report will also strongly defend the need for a screening programme and underline the need to defend and preserve the programme, endorsing the goal of eliminating cervical cancer.

It is understood that Dr Scally does not examine whether individual women’s smear tests were incorrectly or mistakenly read.

50 recommendations

The report contains 50 recommendations, which the Government this morning is likely to commit itself to implementing.

Minister for Health Simon Harris will brief the Cabinet on the report this morning, after which it is expected to be published.

They said things like we will give indemnity in the courts. To such an extent that the entire CervicalCheck screening programme could be in jeopardy

Dr Scally yesterday evening briefed a number of people affected by the controversy, including Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died of cervical cancer.

A High Court action by Ms Phelan, a terminally-ill Limerick woman, over her cervical cancer diagnosis brought the controversy to light. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and told of the false negative in the smear test in September 2017. It later emerged that more than 200 women diagnosed with cervical cancer should have received earlier intervention than they actually did.

The Irish Times reported yesterday that Dr Scally believed that a commission of investigation into the matter was not needed. It is understood Dr Scally's report says there are other ways to deal with the issues involved.

Gauge the view

Mr Harris said it was still his intention to proceed with such a commission but he added that he wanted to gauge the view of those affected by the controversy.

The women and families affected by the controversy reacted angrily yesterday after some findings emerged.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government’s position was there should be a commission of inquiry but he said people needed to read the report and understand why Dr Scally had suggested it may not be necessary.

The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he would like to read Dr Scally’s report before deciding his view on the matter. He also accused the Government and Minister for Health Simon Harris of mismanaging the CervicalCheck issue from “the get go”.

“They said in the immediate aftermath of the scandal, they said anything that would get them out of what they perceived to be political embarrassment or trouble,” he said.

“They said things like we will give indemnity in the courts. To such an extent that the entire CervicalCheck screening programme could be in jeopardy. From the moment that Minister Harris was briefed by officials, I think he got this wrong, in terms of managing it and dealing with it in a comprehensive, professional way.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times