News & Media

Dept of Health & HSE still haven’t learned CervicalCheck lessons

6 August 2019

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Spokesperson on Health

Labour Party Health spokesperson, Alan Kelly TD, has said that the MacCraith report into the CervicalCheck IT failure highlights the fractured relationship between the Department of Health and CervicalCheck patient advocates.

Deputy Kelly said:

“Today’s report by Professor MacCraith makes for interesting reading, especially the fractured state of affairs between the Department of Health and the patient advocates. Why are the Department of Health and the HSE keeping these important people at an arm’s length and what is Minister Harris going to do to fix this issue? The voice of patient advocates is key to remedying problems at the heart of CervicalCheck.

“Any way we can produce better oversight into CevicalCheck in order to maintain confidence in this vital screening programme is to be welcomed. However, many of the recommendations can be found in Scally I and II. It shows the slow, minimal rate of progress that the Department of Health and the HSE have undertaken to transform the CervicalCheck screening programme. 

“The volume of women who did not receive results directly is very concerning. When this story came to light, nobody thought that over 4,000 women would be impacted by this IT failure and extremely bad communications on the part of the labs. The report states that it was a major software issue. Have the labs and the HSE communicated directly with the software developers to find out if a systems failure like this could occur again and what steps can be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

“We are hearing some good suggestions today by the HSE about a possible introduction of a smear tracking system but the question has to be asked, why does it take a scandal like this for proper quality control to be implemented? Where was this bright thinking when the smear backlog was at its highest earlier this year? How long have the Department or the HSE been sitting on this idea of traceability?

“One major failing of this report, and it because the terms of reference were so flimsy, is that the report is silent on what exactly the Department knew. Professor MacCraith either could not get the information or the Department is completely dysfunctional when it comes to CervicalCheck. Either way it is extremely worrying, and there needs to be urgent action from Minister Harris.

“We have had so many cock-ups with the way women have been treated by various arms of the State when it comes to CervicalCheck. We have in the last 12 months had three major reports into the failings at CervicalCheck, these reports contain substantial recommendations as to how we can create a cultural transformation and instil better confidence in this vital screening programme. The pace of change is moving too slowly. Minister Harris and his Department need to work with patient advocates and those who are eager to transform this programme for the better.”