Simon Harris accused of 'moving the goalposts' on CervicalCheck review

Simon Harris accused of 'moving the goalposts' on CervicalCheck review
Simon Harris

The Health Minister has been accused of "moving the goalposts" several times on a delayed CervicalCheck review.

However, Simon Harris has strongly defended a delay in the publication of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) review saying he will not be releasing any information it until all women impacted have been consulted.

It had first been indicated that the clinical review, which was commissioned in the wake of the smear check scandal, would be released in May, but the date was then moved to October and now Mr Harris has said he expects to publish it later this month.

While the review has been completed by RCOG, Mr Harris said he has not asked for a copy of it.

However, Labour Party Health spokesperson, Alan Kelly accused the Government of keeping women and their families in the dark by not publishing the report.

“Time and time again I have said that his review was never going to be completed when promised," he said. "There are real issues here. In all these cases the women are waiting to find out if they have issues to deal with. It is not acceptable that these timelines are so far out.

He added: “The Government have moved the goalposts several times when it comes to the RCOG review into CervicalCheck, we were first given an unrealistic deadline of May, and then told it would be published in October, yet here we are in November and no sign of the report."

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

A total of 1,057 women consented to having their smear tests re-read as part of the review and began receiving letters from the HSE and RCOG in September advising them what their options are in terms of receiving those results and what supports will be made available to them.

The women all took part in the national screening programme, CervicalCheck, and went on to develop cervical cancer.

Mr Harris said the women involved have the option of receiving their results in person, by phone or letter, and this process is still underway.

"I expect that process the conclude this month and I would hope to be in a position to receive that report and to publish it this month.

"But I will not be receiving it and I will not be publishing it until every woman knows and I make no apology for that," said Mr Harris.

He said no politician including himself as Minister for Health has a right to any information before the women impacted are contacted.

"I will absolutely defend that to the nth degree," Mr Harris said when asked why the review had missed yet another deadline.

"We have a situation now where, as we speak there are meetings taking place with women who participated in this independent clinical review, they are meeting clinicians they are being talked through their results and I think it's very important that that process is carried out.

"In the past rightly there has been a criticism of the health service for not being woman-centered.

"It's really important that all of the women get their results first," Mr Harris told RTE News at One.

The Minister said he would bring the report to Cabinet when he receives it.

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