Campaigner Vicky Phelan responds to latest CervicalCheck scandal

Vicky Phelan, the Limerick-native who first brought the CervicalCheck scandal to light, has responded to the latest report on the issue by Brian MacCraith


Earlier this week it was revealed approximately 400 women whose cervical smear test results were delayed have now received a letter with incorrect information about those results. It is the latest blow in the ongoing CervicalCheck controversy.

What’s more, a new report by DCU president Professor Brian MacCraith has found 873 women who underwent a repeat HPV test received no results for over six months – and nor did their GPs.

Vicky Phelan, the Limerick-native who first brought the CervicalCheck scandal to light, has responded to the news on Twitter saying "I can no longer remain silent". The young mother was one of more than 200 Irish women to receive false-negative results for her smear test in recent years and has been tirelessly campaigning for women’s health since.

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'I can no longer remain silent'

In a thread posted on social media, Vicky Phelan said, "I had hoped to take the summer off to spend it with my family as I spent a lot of last summer campaigning following my court case. I am acutely aware that this could be my last summer. Treatment is going well but you never know with this disease.

"I decided not to weigh in on the first reports of the result letters fiasco in July. I left it in the very capable hands of the 221+ patient advocates Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh who work tirelessly on behalf of not only the 221+ but the women of Ireland.

"However, given the contents of the excellent MacCraith Report which was undertaken by Brian MacCraith and the fallout as a result of what we now know happened over the last 10 months, I can no longer remain silent. I have spent the day digesting reports. Here are my thoughts.

"Two overarching themes stand out for me – risk and women – NOT communication. The Gabriel Scally report highlighted that, "a key weakness in the governance structures within the HSE in relation to CervicalCheck and the National Screening Service (NSS) is how risks are identified, communicated and managed.

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"Scally recommended a substantial revision to the organisational approach to risk management and its reporting. Lessons do not appear to have been learned and we find ourselves now with ANOTHER report recommending that the HSE "move quickly to ensure... an active culture of risk management".

"Indeed, Professor MacCraith states in his report that when the risk became a Category 1 serious incident, it SHOULD have been reported on the National Incident Management System (NIMS). This is a requirement of the Incident Management Framework. There is NO evidence that this was done.

Vicky Phelan via twitter

"Dr Scally and Professor MacCraith met highly engaged and committed CervicalCheck staff while undertaking their reviews. Scally noted that some felt that screening was "downgraded after being absorbed into the HSE." A report from 2017 noted a disconnect between the NSS and HSE chain of command.

"Could this 'disconnect' and the fact that CervicalCheck staff have been 'dealing with rolling crises' during the period of the MacCraith review have contributed to the failures of CervicalCheck to deal with this latest crisis?

"Paul Reid announced the swift implementation of the MacCraith recommendations. This is very welcome. However, there needs to be a review of what contributed to the failures so that this does not happen again. Whatever is going on, WOMEN have been failed AGAIN.

"Dr Scally recommended that the Minister of Health Simon Harris "give consideration to how women's health issues can be given more consistent, expert and committed attention" within our health system. Professor MacCraith has recommended a "Women First" approach. WE NEED TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

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"We need to take women's health more seriously. Dr Scally demanded that "more and different attention NEEDS to be paid to women's health issues". It is simply not enough to pay lip service to women's health. We have had enough."

Photos: Vicky Phelan via Twitter


Read more: We repealed the eighth: here's what's next for women's health in Ireland

Read more: Why your smear test is nothing to be nervous about

Read more: 'Even in the hardest of times, life is worth living': Vicky Phelan to release memoir in autumn 2019

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