A Cork woman who was among those who developed cervical cancer following missed smears has accused the HSE of trying to minimise levels of public outrage rather than communicate clearly with women.
More than 4,000 women were not given their smear test results due to an IT glitch, according to a review conducted into the latest issues facing CervicalCheck.
The HSE ordered a rapid review after it was revealed in recent weeks that smear test results were not sent to around 800 women as a result of technical issues at a US lab hired to test smears.
The subsequent report, published yesterday, recommends significant changes to how the national screening programme operates.
The review found that the total number of women affected is around 4,080. In the cases of around 3,200 women, letters were issued to their GP but not the women themselves, while no letters were issued at all for around 900 more.
The review found that, following the IT glitch, the lack of communication with women and GPs to inform them was one of the main issues. One recommendation set out in the report is to implement a women-first approach to ensure that women and their GPs are always kept in the loop.
Carol Murray, from Cork and one of the 221+ group, said this should have been in place long ago.
A 33-year-old mother of two, Ms Murray’s cervical smear test, taken in 2010, had been read incorrectly.
She accused the HSE of trying to minimise the level of outrage rather than increasing communications.
“That is why we are where we are now,” Ms Murray told The Echo.
She said the latest revelations, on top of all that has happened in CervicalCheck in the past 14 months, have impacted women’s trust in the service.
“The waiting and fear of bad results is dreadful enough, let alone to have to redo the test because of their lack of skills and inability to hire more people to get through the backlog before they all expired,” she said.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said: “While much work and many improvements have taken place in the CervicalCheck service over the past 15 months, it is unacceptable that women should have to wait so long for important information about their health.”
He added the review’s recommendations will allow the cervical screening programme to address the failings that led to these issues “quickly and definitively”.
“The HSE wishes to reiterate its apology to all of the women impacted by the delays in issuing important information to them.”