CervicalCheck women to learn about briefing on Scally report

Vicky Phelan and others affected have sought details on report before publication

Vicky Phelan: “We don’t want to be on the back foot going into this.”

Women and relatives affected by the CervicalCheck screening controversy hope to learn on Monday whether they will receive a briefing on the Scally report before its expected publication this week.

Dr Gabriel Scally, the public health veteran asked to investigate why women diagnosed with cervical cancer were not told about the audit revealing false negative smear tests, is briefing Minister for Health Simon Harris on Monday on the scoping report he submitted to the Minister on Friday.

The report has been sent to the Attorney General and is expected to be presented by Mr Harris to the Cabinet at its weekly meeting this Wednesday, ahead of publication.

Mr Harris has told women caught up on the controversy, as well as the relatives of affected women who have died, that they would be appraised of the contents of the report before publication.


Dr Scally is to seek the Minister’s permission to brief them.

Limerick woman Vicky Phelan, whose High Court settlement in April revealed the non-disclosure of incorrect smear tests to scores of other women, said she wants to hear Dr Scally's findings in advance of publication as she features in the terms of reference of his inquiry.

“We don’t want to be on the back foot going into this,” she said. “We would hope to be fully aware of what is in it before the media starts asking questions about it.”

Dr Gabriel Scally, of the Royal Society of Medicine, is to present his report this week. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Cork father-of-two Stephen Teap, whose wife Lorraine died of cervical cancer last year after incorrect smear test results in 2010 and 2013, said he would like to be briefed to understand the report fully.

“It would be good to hear from Gabriel Scally himself as he is the one who compiled the report. We would like to see if there are any actions in the report that are required and to review those,” he said.

Galway woman Lorraine Walsh, who received an incorrect smear test, said: "Rather than going blind into it on Wednesday, we want to have a response and see what is going to come up and discuss with Gabriel Scally what he is recommending in the report."

Medical negligence

Responding to a news report that private laboratories carrying out testing for the CervicalCheck screening programme were seeking indemnities from the State for cases of medical negligence, the Department of Health said the Minister was committed to the screening programme.

The Sunday Business Post reported that the labs wanted the State to underwrite them on any medical negligence cases as part of the extension of their contracts to carry out the testing, and were threatening to quit the programme unless they received these assurances

“Screening saves lives,” said the department on Sunday. “The Minister is fully committed to the continuation of cervical screening and indeed all screening programmes, which have a crucial role in cancer prevention and early detection.”

The department said the forthcoming move to HPV screening will improve the service further. The Government intends to introduce a vaccine that protects against several strains of the human papilloma virus that causes seven out of 10 types of cervical cancer.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times