The Irish Times view on the CervicalCheck review: The need for answers

It’s vital, given the importance of the programme, that full clarity is provided

At a political level, there is some concern that the review of the latest failing in the CervicalCheck screening programme will not assess events within Minister for Health Simon Harris’s private office. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

At a political level, there is some concern that the review of the latest failing in the CervicalCheck screening programme will not assess events within Minister for Health Simon Harris’s private office. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

 

What is a glitch, exactly? The question has arisen in the context of the most recent problem to arise with the national cervical cancer screening service, CervicalCheck. And it is not the only question that requires clarification.

It emerged earlier this month that some 800 women did not receive their cervical smear test results because of a so-called IT glitch at a Quest Diagnostics laboratory in the US. The nature of that glitch and the State’s handling of the fallout are now under scrutiny.

Questions also surround the “rapid review” of the latest CervicalCheck controversy announced by HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Dublin City University president Prof Brian MacCraith is to be the independent chairman of the inquiry.

But the woman whose persistence brought the health service’s attention to the problem – which led to delays informing women of repeat smear test results – has expressed concern. Identified on RTÉ as Sharon, she said she has issues with the make-up and scope of the review.

Although the process would have an independent chair, she was concerned that the support team would be from within the HSE. She also questioned whether any of the women affected would be interviewed and if the report would be made public.

On Tuesday MacCraith issued a welcome statement stressing his independence, and that of his review, and pointing out that he will have access to external expert advice if and when required.

The HSE said the review will seek to determine the exact chronology of events from the time the IT issues first emerged until they became public. It will also look at whether correct procedures were followed when the organisation first became aware of the delays.

At a political level, there is concern too that the review will not assess events within Minister for Health Simon Harris’s private office. The interests of this vital screening programme dictate that no question should go unanswered.

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