NATIONAL CERVICAL SCREENING PROGRAMME
CervicalCheck is a national screening programme to prevent cervical cancer which provides smear tests for women between the age of 25 and 60. The test is a relatively straight forward procedure and is well recognised as being the most effective way to detect changes in the cells of the cervix. Over the last ten years three million smear tests have been carried out on 1.8 million women with over 280,000 women per year receiving the test.
It is recognised that the screening is not an exact science and can result in a false positive or false negative test outcome. The tests are processed in two laboratories in Ireland and one laboratory in the US.
CervicalCheck has been in the news recently as a result of a Limerick mother of two, Vicki Phelan who was diagnosed with cancer three years after her smear test results of 2011 were incorrectly reported as having been clear. Recently she was diagnosed as having terminal cancer and has settled her High Court action for 2.5 million euros in respect of her incorrect smear test result. In excess of 1,400 cases of cervical cancer had been notified of the CervicalCheck programme since 2008 and in most cases there has been no need for a further review. However, in just over 440 cases it was decided that a review was warranted whilst in at least 206 of those cases the delay in cancer being detected indicated that the women in question may have missed out on earlier intervention and as a result their health may have been adversely affected.
It is unclear at this point as to whether all affected women have been contacted which is been a considerable source of unease. Unfortunately, at least seventeen women whose tests were part of the review have died. All of these women had a cancer diagnosis after receiving clear results from an earlier screening. The HSE’s Tony O’Brien has confirmed that he believes the rate of effectiveness with CervicalCheck test is in the order of about 70%. However, Dr. Peter McKenna, Clinical Director of the National Women and Infants Health Programme has indicated that he believes that the false negative rate is about 10%. Dr. Gabrielle Scally who has carried out a review of CervicalCheck said there were many indications of the system in place “was doomed to fail at some point”. Dr. Scally’s report has identified that there are serious gaps in the Governance structures of the screening services.
Unfortunately the controversy from the CervicalCheck programme continues to develop with potentially grave consequences for some of those affected. Crimmins Howard Solicitors have been consulted by women who have been affected by the programme. Should you require any advice or assistance please do not hesitate to Gearoid Howard of Crimmins Howard Solicitors who will be happy to assist.