UK expert to lead inquiry into CervicalCheck screenings

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he will appointa UK-based medical expert and a gynaecologist from abroad to head up the scoping inquiry into the CervicalCheck controversy.

This individual, who is due to arrive in Ireland today, will produce a progress report early in June, before reporting to the minister at the end of the month - writes rte.ie

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting, Mr Harris also said he briefed Vicky Phelan on the issue last night and told her she would be hearing from the person heading up the inquiry this week.

He said that the non-disclosure of information in clinical audits, the labs that are being used to screen smear tests and Ms Phelan's case were among the issues to be examined by the scoping inquiry.

Ms Phelan, a Limerick mother-of-two, was diagnosed with cancer three years after her smear test results of 2011 were incorrectly reported as clear. She now has terminal cancer.

More than 200 other women diagnosed with cancer may have missed out on earlier medical intervention and were not told about the clinical audit.

When asked about Health Service Executive Director General Tony O'Brien, Mr Harris said Mr O'Brien has only a "few short weeks" left as head of the HSE and he was best placed to help provide answers about the controversy.

Mr Harris also pledged whatever resources necessary to deal with the volume of calls to the CervicalCheck helpline, as around 11,000 women have so farbeen in contact with the service.

The minister saidthat because the calls were effectively clinical consultations it was not a speedy process, but it was a thorough one.

When asked about Health Service Executive Director General Tony O'Brien, Mr Harris said Mr O'Brien has only a "few short weeks" left as head of the HSE and he was best placed to help provide answers about the controversy.

Mr Harris also pledged whatever resources necessary to deal with the volume of calls to the CervicalCheck helpline, as around 11,000 women have so farbeen in contact with the service.

The minister saidthat because the calls were effectively clinical consultations it was not a speedy process, but it was a thorough one.

Read more Nearly 5,000 women still waiting for call back over CervicalCheck What is the CervicalCheck controversy about?

Mr Harris also said he would also ask permission from Cabinet to draft a bill in relation to mandatory open disclosure, which he said was a priority piece of legislation for him.

He said he hoped that with the co-operation of the Opposition such legislation could be passed quickly.

Meanwhile Sinn Féin has been told by the Ceann Comhairle that their no-confidence motion in Mr O'Brien is out of order.

The party is challenging it but the decision is likely to stand.

Separately today, the State Claims Agency will answer questions at the Oireachtas Finance Committee on its role in Ms Phelan's case and around ten other legal actions.

A solicitor practising in the area of medical negligence has said she hopes that the agency's director will tell the committee that he is acting on a request made by the Taoiseach that all claims similar to that of Ms Phelan's will not be contested.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Caoimhe Haughey said victims and their families need the assurance that their cases will be settled quickly and without further legal action.

She added that it was imperative that the HSE and the State Claims Agency come together to make a public statement assuring patients and next-of-kin that all information they require will be released without any wrangling.

Ms Haughey said she would not be surprised if there were more than ten cases being contested and she expected there would be more revelations in relation to the CervicalCheck controversy.

CervicalCheck helpline 1800 45 45 55

Additional reporting by Fergal Bowers andMícheál Lehane

Read more news of Dublin on our site.

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