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Delay in providing files is 'extra 'torture' for cervical cancer survivors

The HSE and the American labs at the centre of the cervical cancer scandal have been urged to speed up plans to give affected women their files, amid claims high court cases could be lodged by next week if nothing is done.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy issued the demand after revealing she is aware of "seven or eight women who are saying they cannot get their slides".

At a Public Accounts Committee meeting in the Dáil yesterday, Ms Murphy said there are serious issues with continuing delays in providing women with personal records, on what happened during their care.

File image of smear test being analysed

Without full access to the records, she said the very thing we're trying to avoid without full access to the records was "one of the solicitors going into the high court to demand the slides".

She warned HSE officials: "We need a reply by next week, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is in court before then."

Ms Murphy said it is wrong in her view that the delays could force people into taking legal action to discover the files, saying such a situation would amount to "putting people through extra torture".

At a recent PAC meeting, the HSE and Department of Health said any delays in responding to women seeking access to cervical cancer test slides is being acted on and officials have fast-tracked responses to those affected.

During a meeting last month, the PAC was told some women were facing waits of up to 70 days to access their files, an issue which officials stressed was being addressed.

Asked at yesterday's meeting about the 'access' issue, HSE acting director general John Connaghan said the "average turnaround time" for cervical cancer files requests was "22 days" and officials are trying to provide documents as quickly as possible.

But he later conceded the "longest time" some women and families had been asked to wait had been "70-plus days".