Interim HSE head sorry for 'confusion and alarm' over cancer controversy

The Acting Director General of the HSE has apologised for the "confusion and alarm" which has been created in relation to the CervicalCheck programme, as a result of the failure to communicate with the women affected.

John Connaghan told the Oireachas Health Committee that the failure has ultimately impacted on every female in Ireland, their families, their spouses and their children.

He told the committee that in hindsight, the necessary actions as outlined in the open disclosure policy were not taken in a timely and effective manner.

He said CervicalCheck had started sending letters to treating doctors in February 2016 and all individuals briefed expected that women affected would be receiving information from their treating clinicians.

Mr Connaghan said that irrespective of the original, well-intentioned undertaking by the CervicalCheck programme to conduct an audit of cervical cancers and communicate the results to patients affected, both it and the HSE have failed by any measure.

Mr Connaghan said the language in the memos is very functional and somewhat lacking in empathy for the women who were to be communicated to.

He said that together with his colleagues, they would work to bring about changes to ensure it never happens again.

Officials from the Department of Health, HSE and CervicalCheck are appearing at the Oireachtas committee this morning.

The committee has heard that Patrick Lynch, the chairman of the HSE's Serious Incident Management Team who wassent in to investigate issues relating to CervicalCheck in recent weeks, was briefed on the audit issues in March 2016.

Secretary General at the Department of Health Jim Breslin defended the decision not to tell the Minister for Health that women were being informed that their smear tests had resulted in a false negative.

Responding to Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly, Mr Breslin said a judgement was made that the problem "wasn't of sufficient scale" and was being dealt with in an appropriate fashion that it did not need to be escalated.

He said in an organisation as large and complex as the HSE not all issues could be escalated to the minister.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan was asked by Mr Donnelly whether CervicalCheck was in compliance with the HSE's policy of open disclosure in the way it handled communications with the women affected.

Dr Holohan said he believed there was an "honest attempt" to comply with the open disclosure policy.

"It is true to say that CervicalCheck did not have its own specific policy in relation to open disclosure, perhaps that is one of the learnings that can be applied".

Dept of Health 'not aware' of non-disclosure

The Department of Health, meanwhile, has said there was no awareness on its partof the subsequent issue of widespread non-disclosure to patients of their audit results by consultants, to whom results had been issued by CervicalCheck.

The Departmentsaid it had no reason to believe the communication of results would not be accomplished.

Mr Connaghan said that the reason "pause all letters" was listed in the March 2016 briefing document, was that one laboratory,US firm Quest Diagnostics, had challenged the CervicalCheck programme communications process with treating clinicians and invoked a dispute resolution process, as provided for in their contract.

This was also why "await advice from solicitors"was also in the briefing note.

Mr Connaghan said the matter was resolved and the process of re-issuing letters to treating clinicians recommenced in June 2016.

Separately, Labour's Health Spokesperson has saidhe does not believe the Department of Health or the HSE are functional.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Alan Kelly said that the Department of Health needs to explain who knew what and when about the CervicalCheck programme, and why concerns were not communicated up the line.

He added that it was obvious, since 2013, that the Department of Health was well aware that the HSE was not practising its own policy of open disclosure.

Mr Kelly said he found Dr Gabriel Scally's email (which described the atmosphere around the investigation as fevered) as "disturbing"and said Dr Scally should not be "trying to pass over into parliamentary diplomacy".

He said he believed that functions of the committees will actually aid Dr Scally in his investigation.

Additional reporting Justin McCarthy

Read more news of Dublin on our site.
InterimHSE cancercontroversy
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
1 view in august
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Comments are designed to communicate and discuss the features of an enterprise or event, as well as to find out the interesting questions on it.

The former 'Dragons' Den' entrepreneur Sean O'Sullivan made more than €30m from an initial €1m bet on a bike-sharing company that has been sold to Uber for close to €200m. O'Sullivan, whose SOSV venture fund is one of the most active in the world in financing early-stage startups, took an early punt on Jump Bikes in 2014, supplying most of the company's €1m startup capital. It took part in a second €8m funding round in January this year with eight other in...
The number of Leaving Certificate candidates scoring high points for college entry has jumped since the changes to the exam grading system and CAO points scale. Figures from the CAO show that 11.9pc of students achieved between 500 to 599 points this year, compared with 9.6pc in 2016. There are also other candidates with 600 points, and even more if they have the 'honours' maths bonus. The total proportion of students with 500 or more is 13.2pc this year,...
A MAN in his 20s has died and a teenage girl is seriously injured in hospital after a car left the road and ended up in a field last night. The crash happened sometime between 10pm and 11.20pm on a rural road in Westmeath - writes Gardai in Mullingar are investigating the single vehicle road traffic collision on the Castlepollard to Collinstown Rd R395 on Wednesday. "The collision occurred at Deerpark, Bratty - approximately 1.5 miles from C...
More than 57,000 students have receivedthe results of their Leaving Certificate exams at their schools. This is the second year that sees candidates measured according to a new marking structure, with a smaller number of numerical grades replacing the old alphabetical system - writes According to the State Examinations Commission, seven students achieved Higher Level Grade 1's in eight subjects this year. It said that last year, eight students achie...
A 27-year-man has died following a road crash near Mullingar in Co Westmeath last night. The man was injured after the car he was travelling in hit a ditch and ended up in a field at Deerpark, around 2.5km from Castlepollard, some time between 10pm and 11.20pm. He was taken to the Midlands Regional Hospital inMullingar, where he was later pronounced dead. An 18-year-old woman, who was also in the car, was taken to the same hospital. Her condition is descri...
A Medical Council inspection of nine hospitals has found that some interns were asked to perform duties above their grade. It says some trainees at Galway University Hospital alleged they were also left unsupervisedwhen a consultant was absent for a week. However, the report says that the hospital was complying with required criteria and the trainees knew who their clinical supervisors were. At other hospitals, the council found thatmedical registrars refu...
A study by the Simon Communities has found a severe shortage of properties for people who rent using Rent Supplement and Housing Assistant Payment (HAP) payments. The charity saidincreases in rent payment limits introduced in 2016 were no longer effective - writes The study, carried out in May, found that just 8% of properties available to rent were within the Rent Supplement and HAP limits. It also showedthat in eight out of the 11 areas examined,...
An Post is to seek up to 300 voluntary redundancies in a cost-cutting plan that may also see it move its headquarters from Dublin's historic GPO. The organisation said its voluntary severance programme will be open to 1,200 of its corporate and support office workers, around 950 of whom are currently based in the GPO. An Post said that a recent change in work practices identified more than 250 roles that could be eliminated. As part of the change, the orga...
The latest round of Brexit negotiations is due to get under way in Brussels today. The two days of talks will be led by officials, rather than by the UK and EU chief negotiators Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier. Today, the two sides will discuss issues surrounding the Irish border, includinghow to achieve an agreed ' backstop ' to prevent a hard border. Tomorrow, the talks will focus on the UK's future customs and trade relationships with the EU. Last month...