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Republic of Ireland

HSE admits failings at centre of cervical cancer scandal

Ireland’s Health Service Executive apologised to the women and families impacted by the controversy.

Health Minister Simon Harris reacting to the publication of the Scally report (Niall Carson/PA)
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Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) has accepted the findings of a review into a cervical cancer scandal in the country, saying the impact of the failure has been profound.

It admitted its failings to communicate with the women was at the centre of the scandal.

A review into the CervicalCheck programme by health expert Dr Gabriel Scally and his team found failings in every area it investigated.

The CervicalCheck scandal saw 221 women with cervical cancer not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate, and that revised test results were kept from them.

Dr Scally’s 170-page report made 50 recommendations, which has been accepted in full by the Irish government.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “We are reiterating our deepest apology to all those women and those families affected.

“At the centre of this issue was our failure to communicate with the women who were the subject of the audit. As Dr Scally noted, and with which we agree, these women should have been informed.

“The impact of this failure has been profound both for every single woman and all family members affected.

“We further accept that the manner in which women were told was inconsistent and in many instances ill-judged and poorly handled.”

The spokeswoman said that the priority of the HSE is to support the women and families impacted by the scandal.

The HSE said it is “moving swiftly” to implement all 50 recommendations.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar thanked Dr Scally and his team for carrying out the inquiry, describing it as a”robust report”.

He Tweeted: “We all want something good to come out of the CervicalCheck controversy and all the pain it has caused. Let’s make cervical cancer a rare disease in Ireland through better screening and HPV
vaccines for boys and girls.

“Let’s once and for all embed a culture of open disclosure, grace & compassion across our health service.”

Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris said the report shows there was no indication that the Department of Health knew before April of this year of the scale of the non-disclosure.

He added: “This report is unequivocal that the widespread non-disclosure was a substantial breach of trust for the women and families concerned.

“It caused significant distress and additional suffering. The report found there is too much clinical discretion.”

He said the report has found huge failings and issues which he is determined to address.

He said: “It talks about a number of points where there is contradictory in the fields of policy. The HSE disclosure policy says in one place to disclose and in another place it give choice and discretion.”

He added that clearer guidance needs to be given to doctors.

Speaking about the 50 recommendations, Mr Harris added: “This is a very long to do list, it’s a very significant piece of work that he’s giving us to do and one that we are taking seriously.

“We are going to publish an implementation plan in three months.”

Press Association

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Health Minister Simon Harris reacting to the publication of the Scally report (Niall Carson/PA)