‘Technical glitch’ affects women’s efforts to contact CervicalCheck

Concerns raised that cancers potentially missed during screening process

A ‘technical glitch’ has affected a Cervical Check helpline established to help women gather information about their screening results.

A ‘technical glitch’ has affected a Cervical Check helpline established to help women gather information about their screening results.

 

A “technical glitch” affected the opening on Saturday of a CervicalCheck helpline through which women were invited to seek information about their screening results.

Minister for Health Simon Harris confirmed the glitch in a Twitter post and said that this was “the last thing anyone needed”.

A number of concerned women contacted The Irish Times to say they had phoned the helpline and heard a recorded message saying it was open between 9am and 6.30pm between Monday and Friday.

Mr Harris later posted a message saying that the glitch had been addressed.

“Technical glitch fixed. CervicalCheck helpline now open. 1800 45 45 55,” he said.

The extension of the free helpline is among the efforts being take by health authorities in response to apparent failures in the National Cervical Screening programme. A review of the programme has also been ordered by Mr Harris.

It comes after figures emerged this week showing that more than 200 women may have had a delayed cervical cancer diagnosis.

Concerns were raised following a court case taken by Limerick woman Vicky Phelan, who was not told about an incorrect 2011 smear test until September 2017, despite a 2014 audit by CervicalCheck showing that the test was wrong.

Ms Phelan, a 43-year-old mother of two, has since been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the court case heard she may have only months to live. She this week settled her High Court action for €2.5 million against a US laboratory over the 2011 smear test.

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that the clinical director of the national cervical cancer screening programme advised a Limerick gynaecologist to file some audited test results rather than to tell women in certain cases that all-clear smear tests they had received years earlier were wrong.

Dr Gráinne Flannelly, clinical director of CervicalCheck, told gynaecologist Dr Kevin Hickey in an email in July 2017 that several women in the mid-west region should not be told about the false negative tests discovered in an audit after he wrote to her to confirm that she felt some women with cervical cancer should not be informed about them.

The private correspondence was submitted in the High Court case taken by Ms Phelan.

The records emerged after Dr Flannelly publicly acknowledged that she could not say for sure that all of the 206 women who missed early treatment for cervical cancer had been made aware of the situation.