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12th Sep 2018

‘Why does it always happen to women?’ CervicalCheck review finds ‘huge failings’ in screening programme

Jade Hayden


The CervicalCheck report has found “huge failings” in Ireland’s national screening programme.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the Scally Review showed that CervicalCheck failed over 200 women and their families by not informing them of the audit around their test results.

Speaking on RTE News today, Dr Gabriel Scally said he found “substantial weaknesses” in the programme but that he was “satisfied” by quality management processes in the laborites still used by CervicalCheck.

“There are no good reasons why contracts with current providers (…) cannot be rolled on until the new test comes forward,” he said.

Dr Scally said that during a meeting with many of the women affected by the controversy, he was asked: “Why does it always happen to women?”

He said that many of the women felt that women’s health and women’s rights were “not taken seriously” in Ireland.

“They would really like someone to say sorry, and they don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” he said.

221 women were affected by the CervicalCheck controversy which saw false negative results delivered to patients under the national screening programme.

Among them was Vicky Phelan who settled a High Court case against the HSE and one of the laboratories used, Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL), earlier this year.

Phelan’s smear test in 2011 failed to show that she had cancer. She is currently undergoing treatment for the disease.

Following reports of the review’s leak yesterday, she said:

“Lest you all forget, I am still an ill woman battling cancer. The FIRST morning I decide to take a lie in to prepare myself for the gruelling week of interviews ahead and what do I wake up to – a whitewash.

“Information continues to be withheld from women and I will continue to fight back.”

Dr Scally said today that the women and families affected by the controversy need to be given “maximum support.”

He said that the patients had not just suffered physically, but some have experienced “enormous psychological difficulties” due to the programme.

The 170 pages of the Scally Review provided an independent insight into how the country’s national screening programme failed to provide 221 women with accurate test results.

The report, published today, also provided 50 recommendations for the government concerning the CervicalCheck controversy.

All 50 recommendations were accepted by Cabinet.

Leo Varadkar condemned the partial leak of the report yesterday, saying he was “appalled” that some information relating to the CervicalCheck controversy was leaked to the media.

He said that the Scally Review was “not a scoop” and that what had happened was “disgusting.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that the government will not take a “knee jerk” reaction regarding setting up a commission following the Scally Review.

The full report can be read here.