Cabinet to sign off on investigation into CervicalCheck scandal

Dr Grainne Flannelly

Dr Grainne Flannelly

In an interview on RTÉ's Ray D'Arcy programme, Ms Phelan said she knew when she took her case that there were other women involved but she could "never have imagined the magnitude" of the problem.

Chair of the HSE Serious Incident Management Team, Patrick Lynch, today said that 17 women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy had died.

Mr Lynch said that a different clinical treatment should have been provided to 175 of the 208 women when their original smear tests were re-read by the review team.

Minister Simon Harris was given a briefing note on Vicky Phelan's case on April 16th - three days before it went to court.

Ms Phelan (43), a mother of two from Limerick, settled her High Court action against a USA laboratory for €2.5 million last week.

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He was informed that the National Screening Service and the Head of the National Cancer Control Programme had advised the Department in writing that they did not consider this to be a "patient safety issue" but rather a reflection of the known limitations of the current screening test.

The Texas-based lab which distributes CervicalCheck's smear test results will pay the settlement.

She added: "This is a massive patient safety issue".

It also emerged that of the 162 who have not been contacted, that 17 of whom have already died.

CervicalCheck's Clinical Director Dr Gráinne Flannelly stepped down from her position over the weekend, saying that she is sorry that recent events have caused distress and worry to women. "By God am I going to take these guys on, I think it's disgraceful".

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Mr Harris also said he is appointing an worldwide clinical panel.

A helpline set up for people who have concerns has received 6,000 calls.

Vicky got a call from the Taoiseach's office this evening asking if she'd like to meet with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and she said she would in principle but at the moment she is trying to concentrate on her health and she said would get back to the Taoiseach's press adviser. "But her courage and tenacity has done a great service to the women of Ireland and her actions will ultimately lead to improvements for all", he said.

That figure of 208 women affected now appears to be significantly higher.

Solicitor Cian O'Carroll, who represented Ms Phelan, has said the latest revelations are "shocking" and described CervicalCheck's conduct as appalling. "These arrangements will be confirmed next week", the HSE statement said.

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"But in all the debate that is ongoing it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that the cancer screening programme has saved the lives of many, many women".

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