Number of legal cases against screening service reaches 35

HSE chief says there are two other potential cases over misdiagnosis of cervical cancer

HSE director general John Connaghan before the Public Accounts Committee. Screengrab: Oireachtas.ie

HSE director general John Connaghan before the Public Accounts Committee. Screengrab: Oireachtas.ie

 

The number of legal cases initiated against the National Screening Service by women claiming their cervical cancer was misdiagnosed has increased to 35.

Health Service Executive director general John Connaghan told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday that there were also two other potential cases.

He said three cases had been settled.

Mr Connaghan said the number of legal cases was going up but was not sure how rapidly.

The committee was also told that the number of women affected by the cervical cancer controversy has now increased from 209 to 221.

Members of the committee questioned the HSE over reports that a planned review of about 3,000 smear test slides had yet to commence.

Alan Kelly of the Labour Party said it would now be impossible for this independent process to be completed before the overall review of the cervical cancer screening controversy, being carried out by Dr Gabriel Scally, was finalised at the end of the summer.

“How in the name of God can you have a situation where Scally is going to report by the end of August – and he has to report by the end of August or else there will be no credibility – but by those time frames the [smear test] review will not be part of it?”

“And who agreed to those time lines when they were so unrealistic?”

Clinical review

Department of Health assistant secretary Tracey Conroy said there were ongoing daily engagements with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK, which will be carrying out the clinical review of the smear tests on the details and complexities of the process. She said the process of establishing this review was close to being finalised.

She said it had never been intended that this review would be completed in advance of the overall Scally review.

Ms Conroy said that, given the complexities,the time frames which the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was talking about for the process was four to six months .

“We always knew it would not be possible and we were quite clear about that actually, including to Government, from the outset.”

Mr Kelly maintained that some of the women affected by the cervical cancer screening controversy were having difficulties in getting access to their slides due to the HSE putting in place a protocol drafted by a legal team which it had commissioned to govern such arrangements.

He said 80 – 90 women who had sought to obtain there slides were being blocked as a result of the new HSE protocol.

The acting clinical director of the Cervical Check programme, Dr Peter McKenna, said it would be a new departure from practice that patients would be looking for slides.

However, he said, there is no disagreement on the principle of giving the slides to patients.