The establishment of an independent statutory tribunal to deal with claims arising from the CervicalCheck scandal has been delayed by Brexit, it has emerged.
The establishment of the tribunal was one of the recommendations made by Justice Charles Meenan in a report into the appropriate response to the scandal.
Health Minister, Simon Harris, said the Government had “obviously” been prioritising legislative work relating to Brexit but priority was also being given to preparing the legislation needed to establish the tribunal.
However, cervical cancer campaigner, Stephen Teap, said Brexit was being blamed for the delay in preparing legislation needed to establish the tribunal.
“The excuse we are getting the whole time is Brexit,” said Mr Teap whose wife and mother of their two children, Irene, died from cervical cancer in 2017 after two undisclosed false tests in 2010 and 2013.
Mr Teap, who is a member of the cervical cancer patient advocacy group, 221+, said it would be the end of the year before the legislative process to establish the tribunal would be completed.
The situation meant that anyone with a case would still be forced to go to the High Court because they would not be able to wait for the tribunal to be established.
“The legislation has been delayed because of Brexit,” said Mr Teap.
Earlier, Mr Harris said the HSE had until July to overhaul its policy on open disclosure, according to Dr Gabriel Scally's own timeline.
Dr Scally's progress report on the implementation of the recommendations of the CervicalCheck inquiry noted that the policy, judged to be deeply flawed, remained in place.
However, he later tweeted that progress so far in implementing the recommendations had been “good”.
Mr Harris said he intended to bring the final version of the Patient Safety Bill to the cabinet in the coming weeks and pass it into law later this year, in line with the commitment given in Dr Scally's report.
The HSE said the review of its open disclosure policy remained on target, as noted by Dr Scally, and a revised policy was recently approved by the health authority's directorate.
“The revised policy was developed following extensive consultation, including input from patients and people directly affected by failures in disclosure during the CervicalCheck audit,” it said.
The HSE said the revised policy was expected to be published and communicated to all staff before the end of next month, with implementation from then to the end of the year.
Mr Teap said it would be great if the policy could be published sooner, pointing out that the existing policy was one to which many people fell victim.
On two occasions before and after his wife passed away a decision was taken not to disclose the audited results of her cervical smear tests.
The minister has asked Dr Scally to conduct a further review later this year.