Tag Archives: Cervical Check

From a letter a woman received yesterday informing her she needed to have a repeat smear test

On Friday last.

The HSE sent out letters to 6,000 women informing them they needed to have a repeat smear test.

These 6,000 women would have initially tested positive for low-grade abnormalities after having a smear and would have then been subsequently advised to have an additional HPV test within 30 days of the initial smear test.

But their additional HPV test was tested – by Quest Laboratories – beyond the 30-day limit.

The practice of being advised to have an additional HPV test, on foot of a test showing up low-grade abnormalities, began in Ireland in 2015.

But the acting Clinical Director of the HSE’s cervical screening programme Peter McKenna said recently that the problem was only detected at the end of November last, while the scale of the problem unfolded in December.

A letter informing one of the 6,000 women she needs to go for a repeat smear after having her initial test in the summer of 2016, above, includes the lines:

“We appreciate that you may have initially become aware of this issue in the media and we apologise for this. This was not our intention.

“We would like to offer our sincere apologies for what has happened and for any inconvenience that this may cause for you. I assure you that we are working with the lab in question to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Previously: CervicalCheck And 6,000 Letters

 CervicalCheck: Two Lists



Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy

This afternoon in the Dáil.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy again asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about the delay some women are experiencing in accessing their CervicalCheck slides.

Ms Murphy has previously raised the issue numerous times.

Last November, she told the Dáil that it was her understanding that the National Screening Service ordered Quest Diagnostics – which was sued by the late Emma Mhic Mhathuna – to stop releasing slides back in August.

And she said she understands that some women are going to the High Court to force the release of their slides.

This afternoon, she told the Taoiseach:

“Taoiseach, I raised with you some months ago the issue of the CervicalCheck slides not being provided to women and you gave an assurance that day, that you’d go back and talk to your officials and I’ve pursued this matter with Minster [for Health Simon] Harris.

“I indicated that it was going to end up in the courts. It was in the High Court on the 20th of December. There were commitments made by the HSE in that court to provide the slides. They have not been provided.

“The women are back in the court this Friday.

“Taoiseach this is a disgrace. There’s absolutely no reason why these slides should not be provided. There’s an unnecessary frustration being experienced by these women.

“Can I ask you to give us an assurance that this nonsense will be stopped and the HSE will be instructed to do what they agreed to do in the court?”

The Taoiseach replied:

“I recall when you raised that last time, I did make inquiries with the HSE and Department of Health about that and put across our very strong instruction from Government that slides should be provided without undue delay.

“I understand that there can be delays at different points. That, before a slide can be sent to a laboratory, the solicitor has to indicate which laboratory they want to send to. There is a protocol in place.

The vast majority of solicitors, I understand, have signed up to that protocol but not all have. So delays can happen at different points. It isn’t always at the point of the HSE or the lab.

“They can happen at the level of law firm as well.”

Previously: “I Don’t Believe I’m Being Told The Truth”

Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan, who settled her case against Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin, Texas on April 25, and a tweet from July 31 

On July 31 last, terminally ill Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan tweeted that she was taking a break from campaigning about the CervicalCheck scandal.

In a series of tweets, she said she was “deeply disturbed by the lack of empathy in some quarters towards the women and families affected by the scandal”.

She also mentioned that some people had been condemning her for apparently “bringing down the cervical screening programme”.

Further to this…

Eilish O’Regan, in the Irish Independent, reports:

The number of women availing of routine cervical screening offered by CervicalCheck has remained steady – and even increased in certain instances – despite concerns that publicity about the scandal would turn women away from the free tests, new figures reveal.

“The take-up of routine BreastCheck appointments by women who can avail of a free mammogram every two years has also not fallen.

“Figures obtained by the Irish Independent for CervicalCheck, which has a target coverage rate of 80pc of eligible women, show that up to the end of May it was at 79.8pc.”

No fall-off in women availing of cancer screening amid scandal (Irish Independent)

Related: Phelan’s crusade must now fix system (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times, August 5, 2018)

Previously: Cruel Summer


Vicky Phelan


In The Sunday Times.

Further to Health Minister Simon Harris’s announcement that he is to establish a Commission of Investigation into CervicalCheck in September

Justine McCarthy wrote:

After all the skeletons Ireland has unearthed in the recent decades of shameful revelations, the main lesson the state has learnt is how to bury them again.

This sinking realisation lends a horror movie tone to health minister Simon Harris’s announcement that, come what may, he is going to establish a commission of investigation into the CervicalCheck scandal in September.

For, if he does, the whole rotten mess will be swept into a forum that has been designed to be as impenetrable and as impervious to public scrutiny as Fort Knox.

What part of transparency does the government fail to grasp as it plans to brush the official state inquiry behind the closed doors of a commission of investigation?

Once in there, the shutters will be legally pulled down against the public’s gaze. Its hearings may not even be reported by the media. Indeed, under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, anybody who divulges what goes on at a commission “is guilty of an offence”.

Investigation commissions are the Irish state’s Da Vinci code. Anybody who knows even a smidgen about the Vatican archives understands that the truth can find many hiding places in the dark.

You can have the strictest and fairest chairman or chairwoman in the world, but once a commission is a no-go area for observers, the potential to spot false assertions is restricted. Legalism has an uncanny habit of getting in the way of the truth.

…As Harris contemplates establishing a CervicalCheck commission he might also contemplate why the mother of “Grace”, a pseudonomised, nonverbal, intellectually disabled woman, has stopped co-operating with the commission investigating her case.

Grace was left for 13 years in a foster home after a complaint of sexual abuse was made. After a whistleblower exposed what had happened, the HSE repeatedly misled the PAC, even asserting it had formally apologised to Grace when it had not.

As politicians have a genetic immunity to the adage of once bitten, twice shy, it would be foolish to expect them to learn from the past.

Therefore, before one more commission is established, the law that created them ought to be amended, requiring them to do their business in public, with special exemptions allowable on application.

Justine McCarthy: Closed CervicalCheck inquiry is a betrayal of Vicky Phelan (The Sunday Times)

Related: Review of cancer labs’ tests ordered by Simon Harris has yet to begin (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)


Vicky Phelan, her husband Jim and her solicitor Cian O’Carroll (in background)

Earlier this morning.

On RTÉ One’s Today With Seán O’Rourke.

Solicitor Cian O’Carroll, who represented Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan in her recent High Court action, said he doesn’t trust the HSE’s position that just 206 women who developed cervical cancer after having a misdiagnosed smear test should have received earlier intervention.

Mr O’Carroll explained he cannot trust the figure because it was reached by the very same company that gave the wrong test results in the first place.

Readers will recall Ms Phelan was awarded €2.5 million in a settlement against Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin, Texas – which receives outsourced smear tests from Ireland – last week.

She was given a false negative smear test in 2011 and subsequently diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014.

She was only informed of the 2011 misdiagnosis last year.

Ms Phelan now has terminal cancer.

During Today with Seán O’Rourke, Mr O’Carroll was asked what type of inquiry should be held into the matter.

He said:

“HIQA [Health Information and Quality Authority] is geared towards clinical standards and if the focus of this investigation is solely around clinical standards, that would be wrong.

“Because what’s happened here is well beyond that.

“This has got to do with corporate governance within Cervical Check, the HSE and the Department of Health.

We have to find out why a direction was given to deceive the families of women who are dead and to deceive women who are now gravely ill. That was clearly done deliberately, having consciously considered what the plan would be to inform clinicians as to what they would do next and that’s clear from the correspondence we’ve seen and, of course, that letter from July 2016. I think an inquiry has to look at, first of all, the quality issue.

“What were the quality standards? Were they acceptable, benchmarked against international expected standards for cervical screening?

“That is a clinical governance issue.

Secondly, there must be an inquiry, whether it’s part of that or by a separate agency, looking at the cover-up.

Who was responsible? Who knew?

“And thirdly, related to Vicky Phelan, why is it that her case was fought so vigorously, even when the minister [for health Simon Harris] himself was informed about this case two or three days before it began?

What was it about this case that they were so determined that she would be forced into a confidentiality clause that, through her courage, she ultimately defeated them on.

“Clearly, people in office knew that this case was going to cause serious trouble for people, in Cervical Check, the HSE and the Department of Health – enormous efforts and energy were put into forcing her to remain silent.”

“There are a lot of people out there who are very worried and a lot of people who feel, from their own experience, they’re telling a story that’s remarkably like Vicky Phelan’s and I think that’s why people are making contact [with him].

They can see that they’ve had a diagnosis of cervical cancer after a history of clear smears.

“They haven’t been notified by anybody about a clinical audit. Now they’re expecting a telephone call.

“I wonder will they all get a phone call? Because I don’t trust this 206 figure.

“Remember the 206 cases – that ultimately comes from an analysis of cases performed by Med Lab which is the organisation that performed the screening of the smears in the first place.

So Cervical Check thought it was appropriate to have the clinical audit and lookback performed by the very people who had done such an appalling job at reading the smears in the first place.

I would have thought that the 1,480 or so cases, that were identified, of women who had diagnosis or cervical cancer, following a clear smear – all 1,480 of those cases will have to be taken out and examined independently by cytologists.

That’s not such an enormous task as it sounds – each slide, as I understand it, would take about five minutes to be correctly viewed and then reported on thereafter.

“But that’s the only way that it’s going to be, that trust for these figures will emerge.

“Because you cannot have a system where an organisation, no matter how conscientious they may be, clearly, there is a risk that their reporting would tend to way from liability against themselves.”

[To clarify, Med Lab did not carry out Ms Phelan’s original screening in 2011. This was performed by Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin Texas – whom Ms Phelan settled her High Court action against for €2.5 million last week. However, Med Lab and Clinical Pathology Laboratories are sister companies and have the same parent company, Sonic Healthcare.]

Listen back in full here

Earlier: HSE Boss ‘Dismissed My Concerns’ About Cervical Screening Results