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Vast majority (94%) consent to take part in delayed smear test review

Figures show 1,300 letters were sent to women asking them to consent to be included in the review by RCOG.

Image: Shutterstock/Konstantin Kolosov

OVER 1,300 LETTERS have been sent to women asking them to consent to be included in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) review of 3,000 smear tests following the CervicalCheck scandal.

Of those letters issued, approximately 330 consent forms are reported to have been returned up to end of last week, with 94% of women who have responded agreeing to take part in the review.

Following the fallout of the CervicalCheck controversy, Health Minister Simon Harris said every woman who had a cervical cancer diagnosis in Ireland since screenings began in 2008 will have their smear tests reviewed.

The independent review is to be carried out by a team of cytologists from the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London. 

Letters to women 

TheJournal.ie can confirm that over 1,300 letters have been issued, with the HSE reporting that it expects the vast majority of remaining letters to be either completed or issued by end of this week, excluding those involving next-of-kin.

It is understood the Department of Health is engaging with the HSE to ensure remaining letters are issued as quickly as possible.

The aim of the review is to examine whether misread slides impacted on women’s treatment, prognosis and outcome. 

At the beginning of the summer, the minister promised the review would be concluded by the end of May and any woman impacted by it would be contacted in due course. 

However, reports later emerged of a significant delay in getting the review started, due to the issue of consent being needed, it is understood. 

The HSE is understood to be making “every effort to ensure clear information is provided” to the women impacted, with the agency open to addressing any queries, issues or concerns raised by women about the review or the consent process.

The government is continuing “to support and facilitate RCOG and the HSE in progressing this review as expeditiously as possible, and to do so in a way that ensures quality, comprehensiveness and integrity of the results”.

Delay in review getting started 

In July, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “very dissatisfied” that the review of around 3,000 smear tests had not started.

“We had thought back in May that this was a job that could be done more quickly, but we’re obviously going to do everything we can to make sure that work is done as quickly as possible,” he said. 

The Scally report, which was published last month, found significant failures in the governance structures of the screening programme. 

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The review’s author, Dr Gabriel Scally, said the biggest failure he identified in his four month review was the non-disclosure of information from CervicalCheck audits to patients.

In his review, Scally heard testimonies from women affected by the controversy, but he did not examine the individual medical evidence (the smear tests) in each individual case. 

The RCOG review, which is tasked with examining the slides of some 3,000 women, was to be completed in advance of the Scally review. 

It is believed the results of the RCOG review will not be known until 2019. 

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