Simon Harris to organise free repeat smear tests after cervical cancer controversy

Lydia Fleming
April 29, 2018

Ms Phelan settled a case against a USA lab on Wednesday, after being wrongly informed in 2011 that she had the all clear.

"Ms Phelan's original 2011 test was carried out by Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin Texas". In January this year she was offered six to a year to live. She this week settled her High Court action for €2.5 million against a United States laboratory over the 2011 smear test. The settlement was made without an admission of liability.

Health Minister Simon Harris has sent in a hit squad to investigate CervicalCheck.

The HSE is confident that, in keeping with the usual principles of natural justice, the Minister would expect that this peer review would be completed and appropriate procedures followed before there is any judgement passed on the role of the clinical and managerial leadership of the programme. While in the majority of these cases there had been no need for further review, in around 30% of cases a review was warranted.

In nearly half of those cases, it is suggested that earlier intervention was needed.

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A check on the medical files of 206 women with cervical cancer is expected to find "several" who were not told by their doctors that their smear test had produced a false negative result, say senior government sources.

In a statement, Dr Flannelly apologised, and said: 'I am sorry that recent events caused distress and worry to women.

Minister Harris and the HSE director general, Tony O'Brien, have agreed that an global peer review of CervicalCheck needs to take place to ensure ongoing confidence in it.

"We have always advocated and campaigned for resources for screening, particularly in relation to cervical screening because it is the best measure we have to avoid cervical cancer, which is a awful cancer, but is one that, if caught early enough, can be managed".

"It's so important that people use the screening programme: it saves lives, it has detected cancers, and it has helped reduce the rate of cervical cancer". Combined with the HPV vaccine, there is an opportunity to all but eradicate cervical cancer in the decades ahead.

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When she had another spread test in 2014 she had cervical cancer.

However, it acknowledged that there will "never be a health service without some degree of human error".

The HSE has confirmed that 1,482 cases of cervical cancer were notified to Cervical Check since it started the national programme 10 years ago. "No woman should have to wait this long for information relevant to their care", it said. This represents a breakdown in communication.

The charity added that any woman affected by this story who needs support can speak to trained cancer nurses on 1800 200 700.

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