Over 2000 women called CervicalCheck helpline since Saturday

Vicky Phelan

Vicky Phelan

A special helpline was set up to answer the calls of women concerned about the results of their smear tests.

She also revealed that Minister for Health Simon Harris called her personally to apologise.

Speaking on RTÉ's "This Week in Politics" programme, Minister for Health Simon Harris said he does not know how many women may have died arising from the cervical smear controversy.

In most of those cases, the earlier tests were found to have been correctly conducted and analyzed - the cancer had developed later - but in the 208 identified cases, reviews of the earlier tests found clear signs of cancer that had been missed.

Under the auspices of this investigation an worldwide peer group will also be established to review root and branch our cervical screening programme in Ireland against best global standards and practices.

Several inquiries are to take place into the failures of the Cervical Check programme.

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It was confirmed yesterday that 162 women were not told about the review and 17 have died. A liaison nurse will also work with the group to ensure all necessary supports are made available to those affected.

Mr Harris said he hopes these steps "will ensure the integrity of the cervical screening programme at the same time as providing learning for all cancer screening programmes".

'I also intend to bring proposals to Government next week to legislate for mandatory open disclosure for serious reportable events.

"I could be another one of those women and if I had died I would be on that list".

Emails released in the Phelan case showed that the CervicalCheck program had advised some doctors not to tell their patients about the 2014 review, arguing that finding out about the false negatives would not affect their current treatment. "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".

CervicalCheck can be contacted on 1800 454555.

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