'Women have been failed again': Vicky Phelan responds to CervicalCheck report

This week an independent rapid review into the screening programme by Professor Brian MacCraith found that more than 4,080 women had delayed HPV test results communicated to them as a result of an IT problem in a US diagnostics lab.

'Women have been failed again': Vicky Phelan responds to CervicalCheck report

Campaigner Vicky Phelan said “women have been failed again” when commenting on the latest CervicalCheck report.

This week an independent rapid review into the screening programme by Professor Brian MacCraith found that more than 4,080 women had delayed HPV test results communicated to them as a result of an IT problem in a US diagnostics lab.

Ms Phelan, who was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer in November 2017 having received incorrect false-negative smear test results in 2011, took to Twitter yesterday to give a considered response to the latest report on the screening service.

She stated that lessons from a previous CervicalCheck report by Dr Gabriel Scally don't seem to have been learnt: “Scally recommended a substantial revision to the organisational approach to risk management and its reporting.

Lessons do not appear to have been learned and we find ourselves now with another report recommending that the HSE ‘move quickly to ensure an active culture of risk management’.

The campaigner called for a review to ensure that similar failings do not occur again: “There needs to be a review of what contributed to the failures so that this does not happen again. Whatever is going on, women have been failed again."

Commenting on one of the recommendations of Prof MacCraith’s report - to develop a culture of “putting women first" - Ms Phelan said this needs to become a reality, as opposed to just existing as 'lip service'.

“Prof MacCraith has recommended a ‘Women First’ approach. We need to make this happen. We need to take women's health more seriously. Dr Scally demanded that ‘more and different attention needs to be paid to women's health issues’. It is simply not enough to pay lip service to women's health. We have had enough,” Ms Phelan said.

HSE director Paul Reid (left) and Professor Brian MacCraith
HSE director Paul Reid (left) and Professor Brian MacCraith

Echoing the same sentiment was Marie Culliton, chief medical scientist at the National Maternity Hospital and council member of the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine. She told RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland:

Women need to be taken more seriously here, we can’t treat them like children - engage with them, tell them what is going on.

Ms Culliton was discussing the possibility of repatriating all lab services for the CervicalCheck to Ireland. She said there are historic issues in relation to the outsourcing of screenings: “Initially in 2004 there was a report about how the services should be provided in this country."

A course was set up to train scientists, she explained, however, a decision was “made politically” to outsource testing to a UK lab. Ms Culliton said this situation remained in place until issues around the screening service started to made public: “We moved on until we came to last year when the chickens came home to roost and we found there was a situation where we have the group, who are now known as the 221+, where we know their results were incorrect."

She argued that the State would have more control if all lab services to do with the screening service were repatriated: “When the tests are repatriated here we will have control, we will be able to ask questions and get the answers,” explained the scientist.

A lab at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin, is already being paid by the HSE to process screening tests.

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