Health Minister 'fully supportive' of Scally remaining involved in CervicalCheck'

A spokesperson for Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Irish Examiner in reply to comments from Labour Leader Alan Kelly who said Dr Scally had been dumped
Health Minister 'fully supportive' of Scally remaining involved in CervicalCheck'

The Irish Examiner has confirmed that Dr Scally is no longer involved in providing progress updates to the Department of Health, as he had been previously, despite 22 of his 170 recommendations remaining outstanding in terms of implementation. File Photo: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he is “fully supportive” of Dr Gabriel Scally remaining involved in the CervicalCheck review, just hours after the Dáil heard he was no longer involved.

A spokesperson for Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Irish Examiner in reply to comments from Labour Leader Alan Kelly who said Dr Scally had been dumped.

“In his review report, Dr Scally said that substantial progress had been made and that he was satisfied with the approach and structure in place for implementation.

“He suggested that he conduct one more final progress review. In his last report, he said this should be held “at a suitable point, sometime after the Coronavirus has abated. 

"Minister Donnelly is fully supportive of this. 

"He will raise this with the CervicalCheck Steering Committee at the appropriate time,” a statement said.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos Dublin

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos Dublin

Government urged to explain why Dr Gabriel Scally is no longer involved in CervicalCheck process

The Government was earlier called on to explain why it has “dumped” Dr Gabriel Scally from the process of fixing the CervicalCheck screening process despite it not being completed.

The Irish Examiner has confirmed that Dr Scally is no longer involved in providing progress updates to the Department of Health, as he had been previously, despite 22 of his 170 recommendations remaining outstanding in terms of implementation.

Following his devastating report in 2018 into the CervicalCheck scandal, Dr Scally was called on by then Health Minister Simon Harris to perform a number of reports and reviews as to how changes are being made, and he filed his last one in 2020.

The Department of Health has said: “Dr Scally has fulfilled his commitments to the process, including his two independent review reports which have been published.”

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Dr Scally said he is ready and willing to continue his work if asked to do so, but it is up to the department to decide the matter. He said while great progress has been made, he would like to see all the recommendations aimed at improving services for women “implemented and reviewed”.

He did say that while he recommended that the progress of implementation should be subject to several reviews, he accepts that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the screening services but also on the review process.

The news comes after reports of difficulties between patient advocates and the Department of Health and the resignations of some leading cancer patient advocates who strongly criticised the behaviour of officials towards them.

Labour Leader Alan Kelly, who raise the issue in the Dáil this afternoon, said he is both “shocked and disappointed” to find out that Dr Scally is no longer involved in the process.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he said: “I find it absolutely shocking that the Government which hinged its credibility on fixing the CervicalCheck issue has effectively dumped Dr Scally when so many recommendations remain to be implemented.”

“The Minister for Health must now explain why he and his department have gotten rid of him. 

Why has this happened? It needs an urgent explanation also as to why there has been a change to the pathway to screening from 2 years to 3 years. This is very serious.

In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he knew nothing of the removal of Dr Scally.

"I'll have to check into that deputy, it hasn't come before the government in terms of a formal decision, so the government has not dumped anybody," Mr Martin said.

"I will check it out and see what the process there was and what happened."

Following the publication of his damning report in September 2018, then Minister for Health Simon Harris requested Dr Scally to undertake an independent review of the Implementation Plan.

The Implementation Plan was revised to take account of further formal observations submitted by Dr Scally. A further revision of the Implementation Plan took place to encompass two further recommendations identified by Dr Scally in the Supplementary Report, which was approved in June 2019.
Dr Scally was requested to undertake a further implementation review, and this took place in late 2019. 

The report of this Review of the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck was received by the Department in April 2020 and published on the Department's website in December 2020.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the Department of Health said the Government accepted all 50 recommendations made in Dr Scally's Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck Programme, which was published on 12 September 2018. It said that as of the end of 2020, there were 148 of 170 actions, arising from the 58 recommendations, completed.

The Department of Health engages on an ongoing basis with the HSE and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland as part of the oversight of the implementation of the remaining recommendations and actions.

The CervicalCheck Steering Committee, chaired by Professor Anne Scott, will also have a role in oversight of the implementation of the remaining recommendations, the department added.

Dr Scally’s 2018 report provided analysis of and recommendations on the crisis after it emerged that dozens of women had not been informed of an audit into cervical cancer results.

Dr Scally said the screening system was “doomed to fail at some point” and that "the problems uncovered are redolent of a whole-system failure".

He said the current policy and practice on open disclosure "is deeply contradictory and unsatisfactory" and that "there is no compelling requirement on clinicians to disclose".

He said:

I know, very well, from very many of the women themselves and the families, that the issue of non-disclosure is felt very intensely.

"They have expressed very clearly their anger at not being told at the time when the information from the audit became available, and they are equally as angry about how they were eventually told.

"In my view, the manner in which they were eventually told of their situation in many cases varied from unsatisfactory and inappropriate, to damaging, hurtful and offensive."

 

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