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Vicky Phelan backs Lorraine Walsh's decision to quit CervicalCheck committee

“I share Lorraine’s concerns about the RCOG review process,” Phelan said.

Vicky Phelan
Vicky Phelan
Image: Sam Boal

VICKY PHELAN HAS said Lorraine Walsh has her “full support” after she stepped down as a patient representative from the steering committee set up to oversee changes in CervicalCheck.

Walsh, who has cervical cancer, announced her resignation from the committee on Tuesday after a review by the London-based Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) of tests carried out by the screening programme was published. It found that there were missed opportunities to prevent or diagnose cancer earlier in the cases of 159 women.

Posting to her Twitter account, Phelan, a cervical cancer patient advocate who has terminal cancer, said: “I share Lorraine’s concerns about the RCOG review process. I would like to state for the record that I do not have confidence in the RCOG review process.

“It is notable that the focus by the government was on RCOG’s endorsement of the screening programme rather than on the impact of the findings for those women and families, which was actually the purpose of the review.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday, Walsh revealed that two of the three cases dealt with by RCOG in which mislabelling occurred involved her slides and those of Phelan.

“Lorraine was first told that her slides could not be traced, she was then given a set of results even though her slides supposedly didn’t exist and 24 hours later was presented with a new report with entirely different result,” Phelan tweeted.

“On further investigation, she found that labelling had been removed from both her slides and mine and our slides were subsequently mislabelled. These events do not instill confidence in the RCOG process.”

Speaking about her resignation, Walsh said “revelations” in recent months “forced me to examine my own conscience”.

“When I got to a stage that I couldn’t sleep at night, I had to resign and I had to leave the CervicalCheck steering committee as the patient representative on it with Stephen Teap,” she said.

Walsh said a few months ago the committee learned that information sent from the RCOG to the HSE was inaccurate.

“Even as late as early October, of 581 reports, half of them had to be returned because the detail within them was inaccurate,” she said.

“I felt that I got to a stage where people weren’t listening to my concerns so I could do no other thing but to resign.”

Walsh said women have been waiting for 18 months for the report, saying: “It’s a long time for women to be sitting at home waiting for answers.”

“So many women’s lives have been robbed, there are so many men out there that their wives are dead, their daughters, their sisters.

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“And people like myself, our lives could’ve been so different. It’s so different, when you look at having a cancer diagnosis and then you realise that it could have been avoided, it’s so hard to come to terms with that.”

She said she still has faith in the screening system itself, stating: “There’s a better chance of your cancer being picked up going for your smears so I say to people please keep screening.”

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