Further confusion over CervicalCheck can only be addressed by the Minister

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers has said the Minister for Health must immediately address the confusion surrounding the latest developments of the CervicalCheck controversy, given the level of uncertainty which exists

The Mayo TD was commenting as the quality and efficacy of up to 6,000 smear samples was brought into question. “There is widespread confusion as to who is affected, when they will be notified that they are affected and when they will have to retake their tests. There are numerous attempts to muddy the waters with explanations about why the laboratory had dated samples from the day they had been received, not when the samples had been taken.

“The Minister has yet to explain why he went against expert advice and announced additional free smear testing, knowing it would increase waiting times and put increased pressure on the CervicalCheck Programme. There were 100,000 extra smears taken in 2018 and now 6000 women will receive letters next week asking them to take another smear test as their original one was made unreliable as a result of being delayed. In addition there are still over 80,000 women waiting for months on end for a smear test result.

“The sooner the Minister outlines exactly when he knew of this issue, the better it is for the CervicalCheck Programme. We have been told the Minister was informed in November. However the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) wrote to the National Screening Service in August outlining concerns that ‘the turnaround time for processing smears, in some cases, is now twelve weeks. This would seem problematic given that smears are deemed expired at six weeks from the time they have been taken’.

“This NAGP letter was also copied to the Minister for Health and to the Taoiseach and it seems unlikely, given the gravity of the CervicalCheck crisis over the previous three months that it would not have been brought to their attention. The scandal surrounding the CervicalCheck programme and the withholding of information from women in relation to their false-negative test results last year has caused much trauma, anxiety and hurt. This is not abating; in fact it is getting worse given the lack of clarity from the Minister; if he has learned anything at all from the revelations of last year in relation to CervicalCheck, he will make a statement immediately”, concluded Deputy Chambers.