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Latest: 10 active legal cases similar to Vicky Phelan’s on the records

    Developments today in brief

  • Redress will be offered by the Government where a woman's cancer was missed;
  • A new audit of women who were diagnosed with cancer will be carried out by the end of May;
  • 10 active legal cases similar to Vicky Phelan’s on the records
  • CervicalCheck says it has to prioritise women who were part of the audit. However, new smear test will be available to women on request soon;
  • The Serious Incident Management Team is satisfied that women who received normal results and have no symptoms do not clinically require an urgent test;
  • HSE bossTony O'Brien to devote last months in the job to the issue describing revelations as a 'personal blow'
  • Minister Simon Harris will decide later today on what type of inquiry is needed into the scandal, after meeting Opposition parties.

Update 6.45pm: 10 active legal cases similar to Vicky Phelan’s on the records

There are 10 other active legal cases similar to Vicky Phelan's on the records of the State Claims Agency.

An Oireachtas Committee is questioning HSE and Department of Health Officials over the CervicalCheck scandal.

Officials also said the examination of the possible 1,500 extra cases that were identified yesterday should reveal how many women might have had false negatives in the next week or two, though they couldn't say exactly when and couldn't say how many there might be.

Tracey Conroy from the Department of Health told the committee there are a number of cases similar to Vicky Phelan's before the courts.

She said: "Legal proceedings have commenced in six cases involving CervicalCheck and the audit process.

"In the case of three of these six cases indemnities have been received from the laboratories involved.

"They have received solicitors correspondents in relation to a further four cases and they are aware of one further case which they estimate is likely to give rise to a claim."

Update 3.30pm: CervicalCheck scandal a 'personal blow' to HSE director

The head of the HSE says the CervicalCheck scandal is a personal blow to him.

Tony O'Brien and other medical officials are appearing before an Oireachtas committee to discuss the issue.

They've said 172 of the 208 women affected by the initial audit have now been informed they could have benefited from early intervention.

Officials also estimate the number of those who'll be identified from the 1,500 cases not looked at, will be less than the initial 208.

Mr O'Brien showed no signs of being willing to resign over the issue despite pressure on his position.

He said: "Given that I started my own career in public service un BreastCheck, the recent events are indeed a personal blow to me.

"I do not many more weeks, indeed only a few months, in my role and consequently I intend to devote the greater part of those weeks to addressing these issues."

Tony O'Brien

Summarising the known numbers relevant to the controversy, Mr O'Brien added:

"The Serious Incident Management Team SIMT established that there were 208 women who should have been communicated with in relation to the review process.

"These were women where the CervicalCheck review team interpretation of their smear result was different to the original smear interpretation.

Of these:

  • 175 cases reviewed had an interpretation that was different to the original smear result and based on the opinion of the review team, this would have led to a different clinical escalation.
  • 33 cases reviewed had an interpretation that was different to the original smear result but based on the opinion of the review team, they would not have recommended different clinical management other than an earlier repeat smear.
  • "On April 30 2018, following the review of patient charts over the weekend it was established that of the 208 women concerned;

  • 46 women have already been communicated with.
  • 162 women had not been told.
  • Each Hospital Group was then required to ensure that;

  • Each of the 162 women who had not been told of the review outcome would be phoned on Monday 30th April and Tuesday 1st May 2018.
  • They would be offered an appointment to meet the appropriate senior clinician during the week ending Saturday 5th May 2018.
  • "There were 17 women in this cohort who have died.

    "It has been established that 2 of these women had the results of their review communicated to them before their death."

    Update 3.00pm: The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is today calling for a public investigation into the cervical check scandal, rather than a confidential Commission of Investigation which it says will not ensure public confidence in the State’s ability to hold itself to account or vindicate the rights of women who are affected.

    It has said that it is imperative that any investigation which is set up must allow evidence to be used in criminal investigations.

    In a statement, Liam Herrick, director of the ICCL, said: “The case law of the European Court of Human Rights is clear.

    "Where there is evidence that the right to life has been violated or there have been grave interferences with private and family life, people have the right to an effective investigation.

    "An effective investigation is one which involves sufficient public scrutiny to secure accountability in practice as well as in theory and one in which victims are involved to the extent necessary to safeguard their interests.

    "In addition, an effective investigation is one that is capable of leading to prosecutions where appropriate.”

    Liam Herrick, director of the ICCL

    Update 1.12pm: Mary Lou McDonald calls on Taoiseach to sack HSE chief in wake of CervicalCheck scandal

    Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has today demanded that the Taoiseach sack HSE chief Tony O'Brien.

    Speaking in the Dáil, the Dublin Central TD said: "If you really, really were serious about reassuring the women right across this country, you'd do the first thing that needs to happen, and you would remove that incompetent man from the position he currently holds," she said.

    The Ceann Comhairle said that it was not the role of the Dáil to adjudicate such matters.

    Earlier, the Taoiseach said there needs to be a redress scheme for the women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.

    Leo Varadkar also asked for time and space for the Government to consider how best to launch an inquiry into the false negatives.

    The 1,500 cases of cervical cancer that have not been looked at will be audited by the end of May and the director of CervicalCheck is no longer in the role, according to the Taoiseach.

    Leo Varadkar says women need to be looked after in the wake of recent revelations.

    "We will need a scheme of redress for women whose cancer was missed and should have been detected beyond normal error, for women where there was a breach of duty to inform them of the audit results, " he said.

    "So we will need to have a scheme of redress, but we will need to establish the facts before we do that."

    Update 12.15pm: Varadkar says women can trust their smear-test results; new test available soon

    Addressing the Dáil on the Cervical Check controversy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that a new smear test will be available women on request soon, which he suggested provides more detailed analysis. He said the provision of that test will be expensive and logistically difficult, but that it is important to do.

    He also moved to reassure women who were given the all-clear on recent smear tests, saying they can trust the results of their test, and that the current test has a failure rate of less than 1% in line with international standards. However, he added any women with concerns should talk to their GP.

    Women who have received normal smear test results are being urged to consult the website cervicalcheck.ie if they have any concerns.

    The helpline set up in the wake of the scandal has received over 6,000 calls and the HSE says it has to prioritise women who were part of the audit.

    It says its Serious Incident Management Team is satisfied that women who received normal results and have no symptoms do not clinically require an urgent test and can get more information on the website.

    The HSE is also advising women that have been diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008, that they may have been included in the audit and that they can contact the helpline to check.

    Update 10.57pm: A Commission of Investigation may well be needed into the CervicalCheck scandal, a Government Minister has said today.

    Josepha Madigan's comments come as the Health Minister is meeting Opposition parties today to discuss whether HIQA has the powers to properly investigate what happened, or if a Commission is needed.

    An extra 1,500 cancer patients have not had any audit of their cases and some of those women may have benefited from earlier intervention.

    The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht says they are now looking at the best way to investigate what happened at CervicalCheck.

    "Well, I think we'll have to wait back and hear what everybody says and then we'll see if a commission is warranted," said Minister Madigan.

    "It may well be, under the circumstances, but I don't want to pre-empt that intelligence-gathering that needs to be done first."

    Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil TD has called for the resignation of the Head of the HSE in the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal.

    Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would not sack Tony O'Brien, as there is no proof that sending the smear tests abroad for examination meant they were any less accurate than if they had been examined here.

    Tony O'Brien

    However, Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin told KFM however that Mr O'Brien should go.

    "There's still a lot of gaps in terms of who knew what, so we need to find out who knew what and when,

    "And I understand that the chief executive of the HSE said that he only learned about it looking at the RTÉ News website, so we have to figure out who actually knew, and who made the decision to hold this information back from the women and from their doctors."

    When asked if she thought Mr O'Brien should go, she responded: "Yes, I do."

    Earlier: 'Potentially significant number' of cervical cancer cases not included in audit

    A potentially significant number of cervical cancer cases were not subject to an audit examining whether smear results were wrongly interpreted as clear, Health Minister Simon Harris has said.

    In the latest development in the growing healthcare controversy, Mr Harris said the issue related to women who had already been diagnosed with cancer.

    On Monday, the HSE confirmed that an audit by national screening programme CervicalCheck of 1,482 women diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008 had found potential errors in 208 cases, meaning the women received clear smear results when in fact a different result should have been flagged.

    Yesterday evening, Mr Harris told the Dáil that he had been informed that the cases examined by CervicalCheck did not include all the cervical cancer diagnosis notified to the National Cancer Registry.

    The disclosures raises the possibility that more than 208 women have received false negatives.

    The majority of those 208 women - 162 - were not initially told of the outcome of the audit. Of the 208, 17 women have since died.

    "While CervicalCheck has audited all cases notified to it, I have been informed that a potentially significant number of cases will not have been subjected to an audit of their screening history," Mr Harris told the Dail.

    "Let me be clear, these are not new cases of cancer, nor is it a group of women wondering if they have 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."

    He added: "The screening history of these additional cases will be established, and if any of these women were screened through the CervicalCheck programme, their case will be reviewed in further detail with a cytology review where necessary."

    Last night, the HSE and CervicalCheck offered "deepest apologies to women for any worry caused by the evolving situation around the cervical screening programme and its recent audit process".

    The controversy was triggered by the case of Vicky Phelan, the terminally ill mother whose legal battle cast light on the issue.

    Last week Ms Phelan, a 43-year-old mother of two from Co Limerick, settled a High Court action for €2.5m after being incorrectly told in 2011 that her smear test had given a negative result for cancer.

    In 2014 she was diagnosed with cancer but only told of the false negative last September.

    An independent review of the screening programme has already been launched, while the clinical director of CervicalCheck stepped down at the weekend.

    - PA