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The Supplementary Report to his Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck published today (Tuesday 11 June, 2019) by Dr. Gabriel Scally is disturbing for the 221+ support group as it highlights that despite over a year of work, the failings we are battling are still being uncovered. 

We represent real people – mothers and grandmothers, sisters, wives, partners, daughters in the first instance, and their partners, parents and families. Their lives have been altered beyond recognition by the failings of CervicalCheck.

While this report elaborates on the short-comings that led to this debacle, our members are still angry and hurt. They want to believe what happened them won’t happen others. 

While great efforts are being made to address the needs and provide supports to those within the 221+ Patient Support Group, we’ve not yet had evidence to believe that the wider shortcomings that led to this total system failure are being addressed, and we have said so repeatedly.

Dr Scally’s continued valuable work detailed in this Supplementary Report illustrates this beyond question. The report speaks, again, to inexplicable shortcomings. 

Its findings on the standing and quality of some of the laboratory environments deployed, while largely reiterating what we know, sustain a sense of doubt over assurances previously given. The observations on tendering, governance of contracts and monitoring of adherence to the protocols agreed point to a systemic incapacity to provide that assurance. We are told it is changing but that is not being felt by those directly impacted. 

The report also poses grievous questions about the processes employed by the State for accreditation of testing environments.

It is now almost 14 months since Vicky Phelan first shone a light into the dark hole that is the history of CervicalCheck.

Screening saves lives but it has to be properly resourced and delivered in a manner that gives confidence to those participating. We believe that those involved directly with the screening programme today accept and recognise this but there are still issues from the past that need to be addressed so that they do not impact negatively on the future of the programme.

As a patient support group our primary focus still is to deliver productive, effective and timely support directly for the women and families impacted by the CervicalCheck debacle. 

In addition we will continue, publicly, to question and advocate on the many issues still to be addressed out of this scandal.

–        There has been no apology to the women or their families from those directly responsible. When and where will this be addressed? 

–        Legislation for a Tribunal mechanism that could be an alternative to the High Court for terminally ill patients has not yet been approved. When will the Oireachtas complete the necessary legislation? 

–        The Ex Gratia Scheme in respect of disclosure was established without reference to those affected and their needs.  There is no proof of its capacity to address the loss which is felt by those impacted.

–        Despite verbal assurances of reimbursement many women have been forced to personally fund a third-party review of slides which is necessary to determine whether negligence was involved in their case. When will that ‘promise’ be turned into an action and will those forced already to pay themselves be reimbursed?

Unfortunately, despite acres of news coverage and hours of public rhetoric the overwhelming sense held by the members of 221+ is that they continue to suffer in uncertainty while there is no action taken towards those responsible. The then head of the HSE talked last year of a “conduct investigation”. While this won’t heal or restore broken lives, it would be a clear statement that responsibility and accountability are valued in our healthcare system 

Today’s Supplementary Report adds two recommendations to the 56 contained in Dr Scally’s original Scoping Inquiry report of September last. Progress is slow. It has to move faster. 

We will continue to work closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Department of Health, and any agents representing them on a day in day out basis to deliver on all of those recommendations and ensure a more positive future for Ireland’s cervical screening programme and the women who need to have confidence in it.


For reference: 

Padraig McKeon – / 087 2312632