The Cabinet has agreed to establish a Scoping Inquiry into the issues which have recently come to light in relation to the CervicalCheck Screening Programme. Dr Gabriel Scally has been appointed to carry out the Scoping Inquiry. Dr Scally will report back to the Minister for Health by the end of next month setting out his findings.
Dr Scally has also asked an international expert in women's health, Dr Karin Denton, Consultant in Cellular Pathology North Bristol NHS Trust and previously Regional Head of Screening Quality Assurance Public Health England, to provide assistance in undertaking this review.
I gave a commitment that some good would come from this situation and today Cabinet has agreed to establish a Scoping Inquiry into the issues which have recently come to light in relation to the CervicalCheck Screening Programme. We need to examine the facts and get answers quickly for Irish women, while also identifying issues that may merit a further full statutory investigation.
Dr Gabriel Scally, who has been appointed to carry out the Scoping Inquiry, has widespread experience in undertaking reviews of this type. He had a distinguished career as a senior public health doctor and advisor with the UK Department of Health as well as the NHS and is currently President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and a Professor of Public Health at both the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol.
Dr Scally arrived in Ireland today and will immediately begin his work. He will report back by the end of next month setting out his findings.
I would like to acknowledge again the tireless efforts of Vicky Phelan. I have briefed her on these developments and I understand that Dr Scally has already spoken with her and will meet with her shortly.
I have engaged on a cross-party basis about this Inquiry and reflecting the issues raised by all parties, the Terms of Reference are very comprehensive. These inputs from across the political spectrum will be shared with Dr Scally, to inform his work.
The inquiry will independently examine the facts including details of the non-disclosure to patients relating to CervicalCheck clinical audits and the management and level of knowledge of various parties including, the HSE and the Department of Health. It will also examine the tendering, contracting, operation etc. of the labs contracted by CervicalCheck.
Separately, there will be an international expert panel review led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. This will review the results of screening tests of all women who have developed cervical cancer who participated in the screening programme since it was established. This will provide independent clinical assurance to women about the timing of their diagnosis and any issues relating to their treatment and outcome.
These two strands of investigation are crucial to firstly establish the facts, secondly determine what action is needed to address the issues, and thirdly help to restore trust and confidence of women in CervicalCheck.
I have also informed Cabinet today of my intention to appoint a new HSE board and introduce legislation to allow this and I have brought to Cabinet my plans on mandatory open disclosure.