Women Caught Up In Cervical Screening Delays Have Died

The Republic's health minister Simon Harris

A briefing note was prepared for Minister for Health Simon Harris over a week before a settlement was reached in the Vicky Phelan case.

Patrick Lynch from the HSE says a number of the 208 women could have benefited from earlier intervention.

The Minister for Health wants HIQA to investigate why 162 women were not told their smear tests were being reviewed.

Also speaking at the briefing, HSE director general Tony O'Brien, said that he first learned "of the entirety" of the Vicky Phelan cases when he read about it on the RTE website last week.

This January, Ms Phelan - who took the High Action with her husband Jim Phelan - was told that she had six to 12 months to live.

Up to now, the official position has been that all of the cases of cervical cancer had been subject to audit by the CervicalCheck screening programme.

"This is a massive patient safety issue, look what has been uncovered because of it".

"The Irish Cancer Society wishes to express its deepest sympathies to the families of the 17 women identified in a review of smear tests who died, and may not have known the correct results of their cervical cancer screening", the statement began. "She said, 'I don't care what happens, I'm not going to agree to a confidentiality agreement.' If she had, none of this would have come out".

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Mr Harris said he did not have "specific figures" but agreed with Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly that it could be in the region of 1,500.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said there will be an inquiry into the controversy.

The news means that more than 208 women may have been affected by the controversy. He said a liaison nurse will coordinate with the women.

It has also been revealed that a helpline for women concerned about this matter has now received 6,000 calls.

Solicitor Cian O'Carroll, who represented Ms Phelan, has said the latest revelations are "shocking" and described CervicalCheck's conduct as appalling.

CervicalCheck is Ireland's National Cervical Screening Programme.

Ms Phelan said she was contacted by the Taoiseach's press adviser on Tuesday evening asking to arrange a private meeting."I said yes, I would meet him in principle, but I'm trying to concentrate on my treatment which I have to go to this week and said that I would get back to him", she said.

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