Women with cervical cancer who consented to a review of their smear histories will learn from next week if the reviewed slides show findings at odds with what they were originally told.
The 1,057 women who consented to having their smear tests re-read as part of a review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) are receiving letters from the HSE and RCOG this week 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.
It was originally thought through CervicalCheck audits that 221 women were given incorrect results, but that number is likely to increase significantly. The final number is unlikely to be available before October, when a report is expected to be published.
Approximately 20 women caught up in the scandal have died and that figure is expected to be reassessed upwards when the RCOG process, commissioned over a year ago by Health Minister Simon Harris, is complete.
Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene was twice given false negative results by CervicalCheck and who died in 2017, said the HSE had “learned a lot” in the past year in terms of its interactions with the women and families caught up in the crisis.
While the errors in his wife’s smears were communicated to him in a manner that was “insensitive” and “lacked respect” —via a HSE phone call to his office in May 2018 — the approach this time around was “far more considered” and more in line with what he and patient support group 221+ have campaigned for.
“There’s an awful lot more preparation this time around with regard to planning for the women and their families,” said Mr Teap.
“The HSE is putting the resources in place to make sure that women who want face-to-face meetings with clinicians can have them.
One cervical cancer survivor identified as Kim on Twitter said she received “a very detailed information pack” yesterday from the RCOG.
“Not gonna lie, its like going through it all again,” she tweeted.
221+ said it was “pleased to note that the long-awaited outcomes” of the RCOG review were “soon to be communicated”.
The group said the women were receiving an advance information pack from which they could choose how to receive their report.
A dedicated HSE helpline is now available on Freefone 1800 832191 “to assist women select the option that best suits them”.