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Scally report published: CervicalCheck screening system was 'doomed to fail'

The Scally review recommends an overhaul of the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Dr Gabrial Scally at the publication of his report today.
Dr Gabrial Scally at the publication of his report today.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Sep 12th 2018, 2:00 PM

THE REPORT INTO the CervicalCheck scandal finds significant failures in the governance structures of the screening programme, according to the review’s author, Dr Gabriel Scally.

Speaking this afternoon, Dr Scally said the biggest failure he identified in his four month review was the non-disclosure of information from CervicalCheck audits to patients.

He also said that members of the medical profession need to sit down and hear from the women who were impacted by the scandal.

In an incident that he said “verged on misogyny” he discussed the experience of family members of one deceased woman who said the consultant in their disclosure meetings spoke “several times about the late woman’s smoking habit and also told them that nuns don’t get cervical cancer”. 

In his foreword to the 170 page report he says that there was many indications that the screening programme was “doomed to fail at some point”.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said the report finds significant failures of governance and structure but it does not find that the labs used by the screening programme were unsafe.

The minister revealed that the Cabinet has accepted the 50 recommendations it contains to overhaul the national screening service. 

“You will see in the report a catalogue of failures, even when people were told the poor manner in which they were told, the lack of apology that’s very clear,” Minister Harris said.

But what the report doesn’t find is, it’s not about cancer misdiagnosis, he does find that the labs were safe to use. He does find that the labs will continue to be safe to use, the contracts will be extended.

The Scally Review into the scandal examines details of the non-disclosure of information from CervicalCheck audits to patients and what various parties knew and when they knew it.

The report by Dr Gabriel Scally also examines the tendering, contracting and operation of the labs contracted by CervicalCheck.

Some of the findings of the report were leaked to the media earlier this week with the Irish Times reporting that the review had identified serious system flaws in the screening process but it does not single out any individuals for blame in the smear test programme. 

Scally briefed a number of people affected by the scandal yesterday evening including Vicky Phelan and husband of the late Irene Teap, Stephen. 

Speaking to reporters today, Teap said yesterday was “a very very difficult day, very emotional for us to go through this”.

He said he welcomed the 50 recommendations made by Dr Scally.

“We expect the government to implement this without delay in order for us to improve the standard of our cervical screening programme and bring it to the level that all of the women in Ireland and the families can trust and rely on,” he said.

Teap said he would like to see further investigation to identify individuals who were culpable in the scandal, and he believes doctors should “acknowledge the pain that was inflicted on many of the women” and apologise.

But he said the priority now should be the immediate implementation of the recommendations and an inquiry, or commission of investigations, “cannot impact or delay” that. 

1164 Stephen Teap_90553826_90553826 Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap spoke to reporters after the release of the report today. Source: Sam Boal

Lorraine Walsh, one of the women impacted by the scandal, said there is a “huge amount of mistrust” among the women involved due to the non-disclosure issue. 

We put our lives in the consultants’ hands – in my own case I have lived to tell the tell but also I have been let down badly by not being told.

;However she stressed the importance of the screening programme in saving lives and encouraged women to continue to have their smear tests done and to engage with the new testing programme when it is introduced.

“While it has failed a number of people in the scandal, it has also saved thousands of women’s lives,” she said. 

Media Leaks 

The controversy came into the public eye in April when Vicky Phelan settled a High Court action against the HSE and Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) for €2.5 million over incorrect smear test results from 2011, which incorrectly said that her smear was free of abnormalities.

The smear tests of more 200 women may have been incorrect, a HSE audit found, and there has been much criticism over delays in telling those affected. 18 women impacted by the controversy have died.

Interim recommendations made in June by Scally said an immediate ex-gratia payment of €2,000 should be paid to each woman involved in the CervicalCheck scandal and to the next of kin of the deceased.

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File Photo The Scally Report is to be published today on the Cervical Check crisis. End. President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine Dr Gabriel Scally. Source: Sam Boal via Rollingnews

A number of news reports on Tuesday revealed the review conducted by Dr Gabriel Scally has concluded that a commission of investigation does not need to be established. 

The reports came before a briefing took place between Dr Scally and some of the people affected. 

Vicky Phelan, who has terminal cancer, criticised the leaks and said that “information continues to be withheld from women and I will continue to fight back”.

Sinn Féin has called for a full commission of inquiry into the CervicalCheck scandal and has been critical of the leaks to the media.

Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson has criticised the Minister for Health for the leak saying he had once again let down the families and survivors of the CervicalCheck scandal.

“It is not acceptable that the families who have been impacted by what we now refer to as the ‘CervicalCheck scandal’ hear from the media about the contents of the report,” O’Reilly said. 

With reporting by Michelle Hennessy and Céimin Burke

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Adam Daly

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