Government pledges to improve cervical screening programme

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said that the Government will improve the cervical screening programme following criticism from CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan.

Ms Phelan hit out at the lack of Government action saying that while the majority of recommendations from the Scally Report have been taken on board, the more serious recommendations have not.

Those include the introduction of the mandatory open disclosure.

Writing in a Sunday newspaper, Ms Phelan appealed to Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly not to wait until she has died before making changes, but “do the right thing and right the wrongs of the past”.

She called on the Government to set up the Steering Committee to oversee CervicalCheck, make the changes to the CervicalCheck Tribunal and help Labour leader Alan Kelly in introducing legislation to amend the Civil Liability Act.

The campaigner said she was angered that the State and the HSE failed to apologise to Ruth Morrissey before her death last Sunday.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>CervicalCheck campagingers Vicky Phelan (right) and Lorraine Walsh arrive for the funeral of fellow campaigner Ruth Morrissey at Mary Magdalene Church, Monaleen, Co Limerick (Brian Lawless/PA)</figcaption>
CervicalCheck campagingers Vicky Phelan (right) and Lorraine Walsh arrive for the funeral of fellow campaigner Ruth Morrissey at Mary Magdalene Church, Monaleen, Co Limerick (Brian Lawless/PA)

Responding to her criticism, Mr Varadkar said the Government will put forward patient safety legislation in the Dail.

“We have put aside funding to develop a cervical check lab here in Ireland so that we can build up capacity to do the tests in Ireland rather than overseas,” he added.

“The CervicalCheck tribunal is established in law, but isn’t up and running. That needs to be up and running now.

“I think one of the things that was achieved by Ruth Morrissey in the judgment that she got in the Supreme Court, is that it sets out a framework against which State claims agencies can settle cases and settle them quickly and they should do that.

“But we do need to bear in mind, there will be occasions where there’s a dispute about the facts, where some experts will say that a smear was misread or others will say it wasn’t actually and it wasn’t negligence.

“Where there is a dispute of the facts then you need some sort of hearing, and unfortunately that’s unavoidable and I wish I’d realised that that a bit better two years ago.”

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