Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Leaders' Questions (Resumed)
I thank Deputy Róisín Shortall for raising this issue because it is a matter of concern for her and the House. The 1,631 cases to which she referred were not part of the CervicalCheck system and did not come through its process. The women concerned were not included in the CervicalCheck audit of its client base. As the Deputy stated, they are now being included. Each case will have to be gone through to identify whether there is a history which can be checked to see if anything was missed. The identification and analysis of these cases are quite time-consuming. Some 987 have been identified and excluded. A process will be put in place to identify and work with the remaining women involved. They will have access to the new international clinical team appointed by the Government and the audit of their cases will be carried out under its oversight. There will be full international team oversight of the standard of the audit. Those carrying out the audit will assess the clinical significance of any misreading of a smear and work with the women concerned to identify what happened and the potential consequences. They will have the support of the new team, with existing services.
On access to services, should there be a case in which an individual developed cancer following an undisclosed misread smear, such an individual will have access to the services decided on by the Government for the 209 women, of whose cases we are aware. Any such woman will have access to the service package put in place. These cases are being taken extremely seriously. However, there are a large number of cases which must be worked through individually and there is less ease of access to their histories compared to those of women who were dealt with by CervicalCheck. I am assured that work is being done and that the women concerned will have the support of the international clinical team which will work with them in any such case revealed.
There must be a look-back on the larger number of women. The Department of Health estimated that some 320 of the women had had smear tests. It is likely is that some 45 of them received false negative results. It is not an enormous number, but it is an extremely pressing and concerning issue for each of them. They have real concerns about the lack of access to vital information on their health. The least that could have happened in the past two and a half weeks was that all of them should have been contacted by CervicalCheck. That has not happened and some of the women had to make contact themselves and wait several days for a call back. There is an urgent need for a Government response to this group of women. I seek an undertaking that all those who can be identified in a very straightforward exercise will be contacted by CervicalCheck before the end of this week and that all of the supports and services available to the 209 women who are in exactly the same position will be made available to them. Will the Minister give that undertaking?
The difficulty is that there is work to be done to identify the individual cases. The Deputy may apply a statistical calculation to determine that there is probably a certain number of cases. The difficulty is that CervicalCheck must go through the case histories to identify the individual cases and then move on to check the smear test result in each case to determine if there was a misreading. A process is in place. As soon as CervicalCheck has valid information on the identity of individuals, it will work with them to ensure they are fully included in the process with a full open disclosure approach. However, as of today, it does not have the identities of those persons who, as all Members understand, are rightly concerned. As soon as it is able to access the identities, it will share the information with those affected. The women in question will have also access to the international clinical team such that they will have the support of very experienced persons in helping to identify if there was a misreading and, if so, what should be done about it.
That concludes Leaders' Questions. In so doing I note that Deputy Micheál Martin made reference to the convening yesterday evening of a meeting of the Committee on Procedure. As Chairman of the committee, I wish to make it very clear to the House that in convening the meeting I was not influenced by the Government or anyone in it or acting on its behalf. I did so on foot of correspondence received from the Joint Committee on Health------