The CervicalCheck scandal was symbolic of a health system tottering towards something that looks like the edge of collapse. Accountability and transparency were in short supply.
Credibility was stretched. Unacceptable professional arrogance was exposed.
But, most of all, women in a vulnerable position, and their families, were made far more vulnerable than was necessary, because they were not fully informed about their health status or the results of their smear tests.
The episode was, naturally, disconcerting and an additional 84,000 women came forward for screening last year.Almost 350,000 screening tests were submitted during 2018, leading to a huge backlog — and, presumably, many sleepless nights.
Tests that might have taken two to four weeks took up to 33 weeks. That situation has, thankfully, almost been resolved.
Waiting times have been cut to six to seven weeks, from 33 weeks.
Though this is significant progress, asking a woman to wait of up to seven weeks for vital results is hardly a world-class performance. We must, and can, do better.
Dr Gabriel Scally’s warts-and-all report was pivotal in this turnaround, as were the contributions of Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene to the disease last year.
If Dr Scally provided the expertise, they, and others, provided the impetus.
A scandal that was symbolic of weakness has become a response that shows what can be done with a focussed effort and determined actors.