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cervical smear


Women with cervical cancer who consented to a review of their smear histories will be informed next week if the slides show different findings than what they were initially told.

1,057 allowed their smear tests to be re-read as part of a review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), and will receive letters from the HSE and RCOG this week.

Advice will be offered in terms of what their options are in terms of receiving the results, and what supports will be available for them to use.

The women took part in CervicalCheck, the national screening programme, and developed cervical cancer. The RCOG process was commissioned over a year ago by Minister Simon Harris.

through the CervicalCheck audits, it was previously assumed that 221 were given incorrect results in the scandal but now the number is likely to have risen hugely.

The final number is unknown as of yet, and probably won't be made public until a report is published in October. 20 women from the scandal have apparently died, and the figure is expected to increase.

The group 221+ said it was “pleased to note that the long-awaited outcomes” of the RCOG review were “soon to be communicated”.

Women were receiving an advance information pack from which they could choose how to receive their report, and many have insisted that the HSE has learned a lot over the last year in how to communicate with cervical cancer patients and women seeking healthcare answers.

A dedicated HSE helpline is now available on Freefone 1800 832191 “to assist women select the option that best suits them”.



In a long-awaited report into the Cervical Check scandal, health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has commented on the state of the national cervical cancer screening service.

The author of the new report into the CervicalCheck debacle described it as so poorly run it was “doomed to fail” and said some of the treatment of women “bordered on misogynism,” according to the report.

The past number of months have been a time of great distress and pain for the 221 women who developed cervical cancer and the families of 18 women who have died – as a result of the failings of those involved in the programme. The scandal emerged after it was revealed that over 200 women had their cervical smear results audited by Cervical Check – but were never told of the discrepancies in these results.

“A whole-system failure” meant women were not told about an audit showing problems with past smear tests until after they were diagnosed with cancer. As a result, this meant they potentially missed out on earlier interventions.

Some women, such as Vicky Phelan, waited years to be told she had been misdiagnosed years earlier. She is now battling terminal cancer. 

The report also found that the suffering of the women and their families was "aggravated by some doctors."  

"The anger of many woman and families about how they have been treated in respect of disclosure is intense and raw,” Scally wrote. He used words such as inappropriate, unsatisfactory, damaging, hurtful and offensive to describe the manner in which some women were told about their results. 

He did say, however, that the continuation of cervical screening in the coming months was of crucial importance. “My scoping inquiry team has found no reason why the existing contracts for laboratory services should not continue until the new HPV regime is introduced.”He also added that he is satisfied with the quality management processes in the current laboratory sites used as part of the screening service.

Responding to the report, the HSE said they would respond to the report and those affected once they had time to "read and review it with care."




Director General of the Health Service Executive (HSE) Tony O'Brien will resign from his position following the CervicalCheck cancer misdiagnosis.

Mr O’Brien's resignation will come into effect this evening, Friday, May 11.

In a HSE statement released yesterday, the Director-General said his decision came:

“In order to avoid any further impact to the delivery of health and social care services, and in particular the cancer screening services that have become the focus of intense political debate in recent days.”

Mr O’Brien added that in spite of “the clear communication failures surrounding the CervicalCheck Audits,” he is “confident” that on the completion of the Scally Review, the value and quality of the CervicalCheck Programme will be shown.

The HSE statement said  “he looks forward to engaging with the Review” and he will provide his full cooperation to the preliminary inquiry headed by Dr Gabriel Scally.

It finished with Mr O'Brien saying he was proud to lead the health services and the many staff who have worked tirelessly and with great dedication to provide health and social care services in a very challenging environment.

He emphasised that he remains deeply committed to health reform in Ireland and in particular the full implementation of the Slainte Care Report. He reinforced his support for Minister Harris in this regard.

Upon hearing Mr O'Brien's decision last night, Minister for Health Simon Harris said:

"I would like to express my thanks to Tony O'Brien for his many years of dedicated public service." 

"I know that he is standing down from his role today because he believes it is in the best interest of rebuilding public confidence in the wake of the issues which have arisen in CervicalCheck (Ireland's national screening programme).

"Tomorrow, the Cabinet meeting will again discuss this matter and the further measures which can be put in place to care for and support the women and families affected," he added.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the move "is a necessary first step in achieving accountability".

"It is regrettable that it ultimately took terminally ill women taking to the national airwaves to demand that Mr O'Brien be held to account in order to secure his resignation," she said in a statement.

Mr O’Brien step-down from his position comes after the Cervical Check system was called into question by some after it was revealed that 209 women who later developed cervical cancer had the same missed smear test as Vicky Phelan.

Ms Phelan was wrongly told she was cancer-free following a cervical screening in 2011. The mum-of-two wasn't diagnosed for another three years.

Pressure further mounted on him to resign as earlier this week, a mother of five Emma Mhic Mathuna took to the airways to deliver a powerful interview on RTÉ radio about being one of the 209 women and how her cancer is terminal.


It is understood that an additional 1,500 women are at risk of being affected by the Cervical Check controversy.

The HSE has shared that the National Cancer Registry registered 3,000 cervical cancer cases in the past ten years, however, only 1,482 of these cases were analysed by the CervicalCheck screening programme.

This means that this group of women may have to have their smear tests audited.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris confirmed that the women were not included in the audit, “Whilst I had previously been advised, and it had been commonly understood that CervicalCheck clinical audit covered all cases notified to the National Cancer Registry, I have been informed this afternoon that this is not the case.”

“I have been informed that a potentially significant number of cases will not have been subjected to an audit of their screening history,” he added.

He stressed that the group who weren’t included in the review had already been diagnosed with cancer, “These are women who have already been diagnosed with cervical cancer and treated as such, but their cases have not been included in a clinical audit."

Simon Harris confirmed that audits will be carried out in the additional cases.

If you have had a smear test and would like a recheck for reassurance, you can arrange it with your GP and have it paid for by CervicalCheck.

Every woman is entitled to the service and the CervicalCheck helpline number is 1800 454555. The line will open between 9 am and 6 pm.