Tag Archives: CervicalCheck

The Letters.

Written and directed by Robbie Walsh.

Starring Mary Murray, Sarah Carroll and Kathleen Warner Yeates (above).

Kate Donnelly writes:

On Friday, 29th October, Irish feature film ‘The Letters’ will hit the big screen at the ODEON Cinema in Charlestown, Dublin.

Set against the backdrop of the CervicalCheck scandal, ‘The Letters’ is inspired by true events happening in Ireland and tells the story of 3 women from different walks of life, who have been given only weeks to live due to the false results of their cervical cancer checks.

Book here

From top: Tanaiste Leo Varadkar; Lynsey Bennett outside the High Court yesterday

Yesterday: I’ve Been Organising Goodbye Videos For My Children (Newstalk)

From top: Ruth Morrissey and husband Paul arriving at the High Court Dublin in 2018; Leo Varadkar yesterday

This morning.

Today with Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio One.

Former Taoiseach and now Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar defended his government’s decision to challenge Ruth Morrissey in court over misreading and misreporting of her cervical smear test.

Sarah Mcinerney: “Do you think she [Ruth Morrissey] should have been dragged through the courts until her dying day?”

Leo Varadkar: “I, I, I think it was, em, of course we all regret that that happened and bear in mind that these were decisions made not just by the laboratories but also the State Claims Agency which acts independently of politicians.

We don’t make these decisions as politicians they are made by the State Claims Agency, em, I, I, look it, I can’t understand the pain and difficulty and suffering she would have gone through and when it all started it was my fervent hope we would be able to settle all these cases by mediation and negotiation and many have been, this was the only case that went to a full hearing.

But sometimes the problem is mediation doesn’t always work…and that happens when there is a dispute about the facts which there was in this case. And I don’t want to go into the details of the case.

Some sections of the case she won, some she didn’t. The judgment in the High Court was slightly different, but it was really sad for her and her family that this became a test case, but it did become a test case, and one thing she achieved is the judgment from the Supreme Court settles all those points…”


Previously:  ‘Neither The State Nor The HSE Have Ever Apologised To Her’


From top: All 15 doctors overseeing CervicalCheck’s colposcopy services are considering resigning; University Hospital Waterford, where two out of three nurse colposcopists have resigned; Dr Nóirín Russell

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Nóirín Russell, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital and lead colposcopist with Kerry Colposcopy Service with University Hospital Kerry, spoke to Bryan Dobson.

It follows an article in today’s Irish Examiner by Catherine Shanahan and Elaine Loughlin in which they report that all 15 doctors overseeing the CervicalCheck’s colposcopy services are considering resigning.

The services they oversee are for women requiring further investigation following a smear test.

They reported that, at University Hospital Waterford, two out of three nurse colposcopists have resigned.

Dr Nóirín Russell told Mr Dobson what it has been like in the clinics since the CervicalCheck scandal broke in April of last year. She said:

“The last 18 months have been, first of all, incredibly difficult for women. Women have been absolutely terrified by the reporting, by the news, by the discussions about CervicalCheck.

“There was a lot of anger, especially at the start because women believed that they may have cervical cancer and that their doctors didn’t tell them.

“There was a lot of anger when the waiting lists became a problem. When all the extra smears, all the out of programme smears, were performed, that led to long delays, waiting for results and women were ringing, almost daily, for results.

“And that anger often led to quite, I mean I think ‘abuse’ is probably a strong word but there was a lot of abusive language used against staff admin and especially administration staff and nursing staff in clinics around the country.

“Before April 2018, it’s important to note that 98% of women were seen within eight weeks when they were referred to colposcopy. We didn’t have a waiting list, it worked really well.

“Because of the huge increase in referrals, we now have long waiting lists for referrals and that, it’s really important not to underestimate how stressful it is for women waiting for an appointment we are unable to tell them when it will be because of these lists.

“I’ll just give you an example – in my own service in Kerry, we saw 57% more women in 2018 than in 2017 but this was without extra resources….so you’ve got a perfect storm, you’ve got really anxious, worried women, ringing regularly and staff who are really, really under pressure.

“…We don’t want to leave the service, we believe in cervical screening, it works, it leads to a reduction in cervical cancer, that’s what we care about.

“We really want to see this programme flourish, we want to see it supported because we know that screening and HPV vaccination are the best ways that we have to achieve our goal of eradicating cervical cancer in Ireland.

But that support, we need that support as medical professionals, we also need the support of the media, the politicians, the Department of Health, the HSE, and very importantly, we need the women, the 1.2million, who are eligible for cervical screening to support the programme, to attend when they receive that information letter about cervical screening.

“Currently only 80% attend. We need all of the women to attend and they will only attend if they trust the service and have confidence in it. And that’s what our goal is.

“We don’t want to abandon the service but there have been many discussions during the year, amongst colposcopists, nurse colposcopists and medical colposcopists, querying, where is the future for cervical screening.

“We hope it’s bright, we hope that support is there but we don’t, we need that to be the message from today.”

Listen back in full here

‘Mass distrust’: Cervical Check losing staff due to stress (Catherine Shanahan, Elaine Loughlin, The Irish Examiner)

Stephen Teap, Vicky Phelan and Lorraine Walsh outside Leinster House after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologised to the victims of the CervicalCheck scandal in October

This afternoon.

Lorraine Walsh spoke to Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio One about her resignation from the CervicalCheck steering committee.

At the end of her interview, she sent a shout-out to Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan who is currently receiving treatment in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

Ms Phelan was diagnosed with terminal cancer following a cervical smear test error.

She settled a case against Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc, Austin, Texas, for €2.5million in April of last year.

Ms Phelan’s refusal to sign a gagging order about her case led to the knowledge that more than 200 women diagnosed with cancer were not informed of an audit which revised their earlier, negative smear tests.

Just as her interview with Mr D’Arcy was about to wrap up, Ms Walsh said:

“Before I go, can I just say one last thing. I want to say hello to our very good friend, Vicky Phelan, who is listening from St Vincent’s Hospital today and is one of the women, as you all know, is caught up in the middle of this.

“But, you know, she’s in having treatment today. She was also in hospital yesterday so, you know, we forget sometimes that Vicky is fighting a battle and we’re behind you 100 per cent, Vicky.”

Listen back in full here

Earlier: “I Spoke To The Minister For Health About My Concerns”

Previously: ‘Tell That To My Children, And The Children Of Emma Mhic Mhathúna And Ruth Morrissey’


From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris before the launch of the National Standards for Adult Safeguarding at the Richmond Event Centre, North Brunswich Street Dublin this morning; Lorraine Walsh on RTÉ One’s Prime Time last night

Lorraine Walsh on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night

Last night.

On RTÉ’s Prime Time, Lorraine Walsh announced that she was resigning from the CervicalCheck steering committee.

Ms Walsh, from Galway was one of the 221 women affected the CervicalCheck scandal last year and cannot conceive due to having had cervical cancer.

She was subsequently made one of the Government’s appointees to the CervicalCheck steering group.

Her announcement last night followed yesterday’s publication of a report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), after it examined the slides of 1,000 women.

The RCOG found that in 159 cases there were missed opportunities to prevent or diagnose cancer earlier.

Ms Walsh told Prime Time last night that she felt she had no choice but to resign.

She also urged women to continue to attend screening services.

Ms Walsh said:

“There’s been so much, has been come out over the last number of months. But we learned a number of months ago that information that was coming through from RCOG to the HSE was inaccurate.

“So much so that the reports were delayed going back to women. Reports had to be returned to RCOG because of inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the reports. Even as late as early October, 581 reports – half of them had to be returned because the detail within them was inaccurate.

“And I had brought that information to the CervicalCheck steering committee, I brought my concerns to them. I spoke to the Minister for Health about my concerns. And I felt that I got to the stage where people weren’t listening to my concerns.

“So, I could do no other thing but to resign.”

Watch back in full (if you can get it to work) here

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists logo; CervicalCheck logo

In the wake of Vicky Phelan’s case in April of last year, and the subsequent fall-out, the Government commissioned a team from the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to review more than 1,000 CervicalCheck slides.

This report, due to go before Cabinet today, is also expected to be published today.

However, this morning Fergal Bowers reported on RTÉ that some of the key campaigners in the 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group will not be attending the RCOG briefing.

Mr Bowers reports:

RTÉ News has learned of concerns by some women about RCOG review reports that had to be returned by the HSE to the UK team, due to apparent inaccuracies or omissions.

In some cases, slides were mislabelled, women were told their original smear test result was correct, only to be later given a different result.

In other cases, women were told their original slide was not available for review and later told their slide had become available.


Paul Cullen in The Irish Times reports:

Another 60 women have applied to join the support group for those affected by the CervicalCheck controversy after an independent review of their smear tests found abnormalities were missed.

The women are among hundreds who have received a “discordant” result from a review of their slides led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the UK.

This means the review – which re-examined the slides of more than 1,000 women who had been tested for the disease under CervicalCheck, were given the all-clear and later developed cancer – produced a result that was different from the original finding by CervicalCheck, with possible implications for the women’s treatment and health outcomes.

Concerns raised over CervicalCheck review reports (RTÉ)

CervicalCheck: 60 more seek out support group after smear test review (Paul Cullen, The Irish Times)

RCOG review of smear tests to be published (Catherine Shanahan, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: “A Result That Is Different From The Original Finding By CervicalCheck”

‘Tell That To My Children, And The Children Of Emma Mhic Mhathúna And Ruth Morrissey’

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists logo; CervicalCheck logo

After Vicky Phelan’s High Court case, the Government launched a clinical review of the smears of all women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer since Ireland’s screening programme was set up in 2008.

The Government commissioned the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the UK to carry out this review.

Further to this, in this morning’s Irish Times.

Paul Cullen reports:

Large numbers of previously missed abnormalities have been uncovered in the biggest review of smear tests undertaken since cervical cancer screening began in Ireland.

The review led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK has found hundreds of “discordant” results after re-examining the slides of over 1,000 women who had been tested for the disease under CervicalCheck, were given the all-clear and later developed cancer, according to an informed source.

Discordant means the re-examination of the smear test by Royal College reviewers has produced a result that is different from the original finding by CervicalCheck.

The extent of the individual divergences from the initial results is not yet known, but the review has found some cancers could have been prevented, it is understood.

CervicalCheck: Review finds hundreds of previously missed abnormal results (Paul Cullen, The Irish Times)

CervicalCheck review nears completion but controversy set to continue (Paul Cullen, The Irish Times)


The CervicalCheck Patient Support Group 221+ has tweeted:

The agreggate report of the RCOG Review is due to be published once all of the women who particpated have been informed of their results. If you participated in the review and are in need of support please feel free to get in touch with us – info@221plus.ie.

Health Minister Simon Harris; Lorraine Walsh, Stephen Teap and Vicky Phelan surrounded by some of the 221 cervical cancer patients affected by the CervicalCheck scandal outside Leinster House yesterday

Earlier this morning.

Morning Ireland‘s Audrey Carville asked Health Minister Simon Harris about the apology Taoiseach Leo Varadkar delivered in the Dáil yesterday to those affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.

Mr Varadkar had apologised for the “humiliation, the disrespect and deceit” caused to those affected.

Ms Carville also asked him about the forthcoming Patient Safety Bill.

From their discussion.

Audrey Carville: “What was deceitful about what took place?”

Simon Harris: “Quite frankly, I think the concealment of information from women. Deceit refers to having information and not telling people.”

Carville: “And do you believe that was deliberate?”

Harris: “You know what I’m actually not sure it was deliberate. It sounds to me more like a situation whereby they intended to disclose and then, as we all know, Dr Scally reports there was a complete and utter litany of failures in terms of closing that loop.

“But regardless of the deliberate nature or not, it was extremely hurtful and extremely painful…”

Carville:But that’s what deceit is, isn’t it? It’s intent.”

Harris:I think it often does involve intent. But, certainly, what the Taoiseach’s words yesterday were, were a reflection of how the women and their families felt. And they certainly felt deceived and I can fully understand why they did.”

Carville:What do you believe was the most scandalous element of what took place?”

Harris: “I genuinely think the non-disclosure. I mean audit is a good thing, we should be auditing and checking and making our systems better and making our screening service better but the idea that you would set up an audit that intended to disclose and then not disclose, and then add insult to injury, and I don’t wish to open, you know, old wounds here. I know it’s been a very, very painful time for so many people.

“But people have been really, really hurt and certainly in my own statement yesterday to the Dáil, I made the point that, you know, partial information, having to be drip-fed into the public domain because all of the facts weren’t there added insult to injury and worried people well beyond the 221+ group. Women were looking to me and others for reassurance that quite frankly we weren’t in a position to give them. And so, for that, I’m very sorry.”

Carville: “So it all centred on the women not being told and as part of his speech to the Dáil yesterday, Leo Varadkar said there is no information about a patient that a patient shouldn’t know. And yet, in the Patient Safety Bill, for which we were told full, mandatory disclosure was going to be part of, you talked about it, almost as soon as the Vicky Phelan case was complete 18 months ago. There are going to be exceptions to that?

Harris: “Well, I’m going to work with the Oireachtas to identify what those are. I mean there’s a very big difference, as I think everybody listening will appreciate, between mandatory disclosure of a serious reportable incident and between the day-to-day issues that can arise at a hospital.

“Like between maybe, you know, the food not being adequate and the like. That’s a very different situation to the very serious issues.”

Carville: “But is the option of not telling a patient about a mishap or an error – will there be that option in the Patient Safety Bill?

Harris:Absolutely not and I thank you for asking me the question because it’s important to give that assurance. I mean serious reportable events will refer to anytime, anything went wrong in relation to your care. Anytime there is information known about your well being that obviously has to be shared with you so we will bring, I will bring the full Patient Safety Bill to Cabinet next month…”

Apology ‘a reflection’ of how women felt – Harris (RTÉ)

Listen back in full here

This afternoon.

“Ceann Comhairle,

“As Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, I apologise to the women and their loved ones who suffered from a litany of failures in how cervical screening in our country operated over many years.

“I do so having met and listened to many of those affected and I do so guided by the Scally Inquiry report.

“Today we say sorry to those whose lives were shattered, those whose lives were destroyed, and those whose lives could have been different.

“We know that cervical screening programmes cannot detect all cancers, however we acknowledge the many failures that have taken place.

“We are sorry for:

failures of clinical governance
failures of leadership and management
failure to tell the whole truth and do so in a timely manner
the humiliation, disrespect and deceit
the false reassurance
the attempts to play down the seriousness of this debacle

“We apologise to those who survived and still bear the scars, both physically and mentally. As do their families.

“We apologise to those who are here in our presence. To those watching from home who have kept it to themselves. We apologise to those passed on and who cannot be here.

“We acknowledge the failure that took place with CervicalCheck.

“Today’s apology is too late for some who were affected. For others it will never be enough.

“Today’s apology is offered to all the people the State let down. And to the families who paid the price for those failings.

“A broken service, broken promises, broken lives –a debacle that left a country heartbroken. A system that was doomed to fail.

“We apologise: to our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers.

“To the men who lost the centre of their lives and who every day have to try and pick up the pieces.The single fathers and grandparents.

“To the children who will always have a gaping hole in their lives.

“To all those grieving for what has been taken from them.The happy days that will never be.

“A State apology may not provide closure, but I hope it will help to heal.

“I have met with some of you and your families and I have heard your stories, told to me with dignity, courage and integrity. Families turned upside down.

“The grief of losing loved ones.

“The guilt of those who survived, thinking they were the ‘lucky ones’. Those who have lost their jobs and careers, their ability to have children, their feeling of self-worth. Who feel mutilated inside, who feel they have robbed their partner out of the possibility of having a child. A future stolen from them.

“A State apology will not repair all that has been broken, nor restore all that has been lost, but we can make it count for something.

“Thanks to Dr Scally’s three reports into CervicalCheck we have discovered a lot of truths.

“We now know a lot of facts.

“Some things we will never know.

“But what we do know we can act on and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“The Government accepted all of the recommendations that were set out in Dr. Scally’s reports and all will be implemented.

“Now, in the words of Vicky Phelan, I want something good to come out of all of this.

“Speaking as a doctor, as well as a politician, a brother and a son, I know the lessons we must learn.

“We need a better culture in our health service, one that treats patients with respect and always tells the truth. One that is never paternalistic – doctor doesn’t always know best. We must always share full information with our patients, admit mistakes, and put the person first. There is no information about a patient that the patient should not know. No patient should ever feel stonewalled by the system. We should never act or fail to act out of fear of litigation or recrimination.

“The involvement of patient advocates like Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh and others has shaped and enhanced our response.

“We have revised the Open Disclosure policy so that in future patients will have full knowledge about their care and treatment.They will be informed when things go wrong, met to discuss what happened, and receive a sincere apology if an error was made while caring for them. Above all, patients will be treated with compassion and empathy.

“The new Patient Safety Bill will provide for the mandatory reporting of serious reportable events and will establish a statutory duty of candour.

“Soon, we will establish a new Independent Patient Safety Council. The first task of the Council will be to undertake a detailed review of the existing policies on Open Disclosure across the whole healthcare landscape.

“As a State we aim to make cervical cancer a very rare disease in Ireland. It is almost impossible to eradicate a disease but we can get very close.

“So, we are switching to primary HPV screening, and Ireland will become one of the first countries in the world to adopt this new more accurate screening test.

“We are also extending the ever developing HPV vaccine to boys.

“We are educating and informing parents about the benefits of the vaccine.

“We are investing in better facilities in Ireland like a national cervical screening laboratory, in conjunction with the Coombe. This enhanced facility will take some time to develop but will provide a better balance between public and private provision of laboratory services to the cervical screening programme, always putting quality ahead of cost. It will bring more testing back to Ireland.

“We need to restore confidence in screening.

“We also need to listen to those who have suffered and learn from their stories so we can find justice.

“In July we established the CervicalCheck Tribunal, a statutory tribunal to deal with the issue of liability in CervicalCheck cases. It won’t be perfect but it will be quicker, with a dedicated judge and independent experts, less adversarial than court.

“Women will still have the right to go to court.

“We established an ex-gratia compensation scheme for those affected by the non-disclosure of the Cervical Check audit to provide financial compensation without the need to go to court.

“However this was never about money. This was about accountability, discovering what happened and why, providing justice and finding peace. It was about making a meaningful acknowledgement of what happened, and give an assurance that this won’t happen again to anyone else.

“We have seen further errors in some of the laboratories since the publication of the Scally Report, causing confusion and anxiety, so we have more to do to restore confidence. We are determined to do so.

“Ceann Comhairle,

“What happened to so many women and families should not have happened. While every case was not negligence, every case was a lost opportunity for an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

“It was a failure of our health service, State, its agencies, systems and culture.

“We’ve found out the truth and the facts.

“We’re making changes to put things right.

“We need to restore trust and repair relationships.

“On behalf of the Government and the State, I am sorry it happened. And I apologise to all those hurt or wronged. We vow to make sure it never happens again.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (top) apologises for the “’humiliation, the disrespect and deceit” shown to those affected by the CervicalCheck controversy.

Taoiseach apologises for ‘disrespect and deceit’ over CervicalCheck failures (RTÉ)


Vicky Phelan

RTÉ reports:

The State is expected to offer a formal apology today for failures in the CervicalCheck service to women and families affected.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to address the issue in the Dáil this afternoon.

More than 1,000 women and families have been affected by the CervicalCheck crisis.

The failures first came to light in April last year, with the settlement in the Vicky Phelan High Court case.

…The author of two reports into the CervicalCheck controversy [Dr Gabriel Scally] said the issuing of a formal State apology is “a momentous step and quite unprecedented.”

Taoiseach to deliver State apology for CervicalCheck failures (RTÉ)