Number of deaths in cervical screening controversy rises to 18

Nearly 4,000 women still waiting for callback from CervicalCheck helpline

The number of women who died after receiving incorrect smear test results has risen to 18. Photograph: Getty/File

The number of women who died after receiving incorrect smear test results has risen to 18. Photograph: Getty/File

 

The number of women who died after receiving incorrect smear test results has risen to 18.

The HSE reported on Monday evening that 18 out of the 209 women who received false negative tests had died. Up until this point the number of deaths was understood to be 17.

The additional case was identified by the HSE’s Serious Incident Management Team which has been responding to the failings revealed by the CervicalCheck audit.

The cancer-screening controversy emerged last month when 43-year-old Vicky Phelan settled for a €2.5 million court action against a US laboratory that the CervicalCheck screening service had subcontracted to read smear tests. Ms Phelan developed cancer after receiving a false negative result in her smear test. It later emerged that test results were misread in 209 cases.

The HSE said on Monday that it has made contact with 203 of the affected women and families and that meetings had either been held or arranged to discuss the audit and the response with them. Some six women/families have yet to be informed that they were included in the audit.

The health executive says it is working with the National Cancer Registry of Ireland and the Department of Health “to identify any other women who had cervical cancer during this time, who may also have had a CervicalCheck test”.

Meanwhile, nearly 4,000 women who contacted the CervicalCheck helpline which opened on April 28th are still waiting for call backs. The HSE has warned that the clinical call team remain extremely busy and that priority is being given to women with “specific clinical queries or a history of cervical cancer”.

“We have teams working in Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Dublin, and in hospitals right across the country, making contact with all of the women who have requested a call back and answering their queries, with personal health records and advice where appropriate,” said the HSE.

A total of 16,564 calls have been answered since the line opened late last month with 10,222 call backs requested.

The Government announced last week that a number of financial measures had been agreed for the women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy. These will include medical cards, counselling and psychology supports, reimbursement of medicines and treatments and childcare and travel costs.

The HSE advised women that information and advice for those affected was being updated on cervicalcheck.ie.

Women who have had normal test results in the past are advised to continue participating in the screening programme according to their normal schedule. Those who remain concerned should contact their GP.