After a year of “moving the goalposts” on the publication of the CervicalCheck review, it is "unacceptable” parts of the report were leaked to the media before the women involved had their results, Labour has claimed.
It is reported the review led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Britain is found a large number of previously missed abnormalities after re-examining the slides of over 1,000 women.
The women were tested for the disease under CervicalCheck and given the all-clear but later developed cancer. It is believed that the review found some cancers that could have been prevented.
“After over a year of moving the goalposts on the date of the publication of the RCOG report, it is unacceptable to see parts of this report leaked without all women who are included in the review being told of the findings,” said Alan Kelly, the party's health spokesperson.
Mr Kelly asked how the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, could justify the leak that came from either his department or the HSE?
If one was being suspicious about this leak you could think that some people wanted to manage out how this information initially got into the public domain. If so that would be disgraceful.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said a "core principle" underpinning the review process had been to ensure that the women would have an opportunity to receive their results before the publication of the expert panel's aggregate report.
“In keeping with this principle, the Minister for Health will only receive the aggregate report when he has been assured that all women or next-of-kin have had the opportunity to receive their individual report."
Taoiseach, Leo Varakdar, said it was wrong that details of the review had been leaked to the media before all of the women were told about their results and offered meetings. He said some have accepted meetings and others had been happy to receive the information in writing.
“We agreed this report would not be published and would not be made available until each of those women had the opportunity to have that meeting first because they are the ones who should hear it first,” Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.
“We do not have the report and it will not be published until every woman has had the chance to hear about her own results and to have a meeting if she wants one. Once that has been done, it will go to the Minister for Health and then it will be published. At that point, a briefing will be provided for the Opposition parties."
Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Louise O'Reilly, said the “drip-feed” of information in the media was not fair on the women involved.
“If these sources are to be believed, it is possible that a significant number of women screened under the CervicalCheck programme were told that they did not need a follow-up smear test but later developed cancer,” she said.
CervicalCheck campaigner, Stephen Teap, said they would not be making any comment on the review while the women and their families were receiving the results. Mr Teap said the remaining women should have their results by the weekend