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286 active claims against CervicalCheck

There were 286 active claims relating to the cervical cancer screening programme as of 9 July, according to the State Claims Agency (SCA). 

This was an increase from 165 active claims reported by the Medical Independent in April 2020.

As of the end of 2020, the SCA had received notification of 234 claims against CervicalCheck, compared with 134 claims at the end of 2019.

“This includes 44 psychological injury claims from members of the families of the women concerned,” according to the SCA. “These claims not only include claims arising from the internal audit carried out by CervicalCheck and from the Independent Expert Panel Review of Cervical Screening by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, but also include claims where the smear test was not subject to a review or audit.

“Twelve claims were concluded during 2020. The total number of claims concluded as at end-2020 was 22.  Of these 22 claims, 19 claims were settled while one claim was the subject of a court judgment. The other two claims were not pursued.  Mediation was offered in 17 of those claims and took place in 12.”

There were 16 active claims in relation to BreastCheck. Two claims had been received this year, two in 2020, and seven in 2019. One claim was concluded in 2020 and three in 2019.

According to the SCA, there was one court judgment against the HSE/laboratories in regard to CervicalCheck in 2019 and 2020; and one court judgment in favour of the HSE in regard to BreastCheck in the same period.

Meanwhile, the number of claims formally issued by the CervicalCheck Tribunal was eight as of late July.  The Tribunal had also received the formal consent of a respondent to a claim that had not yet been filed.

“The Tribunal is in a position to hear any case which the parties agree is ready for hearing,” said a Department of Health spokesperson.

“It has, to date, scheduled 10 directions’ hearings in connection with claims already received. The purpose of such hearings is to ensure that cases are progressed expeditiously, with a view to scheduling a case management meeting on the earliest available date following the expiry of 30 weeks after the issuing of each claim form…

“It is anticipated that a case management meeting will be held in the first week of November 2021.”

Asked about the impacts of legal activity on cancer screening programmes, a HSE spokesperson said: “The National Screening Service is working to rebuild trust by working with patients to inform our planning and delivery of services, strengthening our governance, improving our information resources and enhancing our quality assurance processes.”

CervicalCheck was established in 2008 and its introduction has been associated with a fall in cervical cancer cases. During the period 1999-2010, the incidence of cervical cancer in Ireland rose by 4 per cent per annum, and between 2010-2015 the incidence declined by 7 per cent per annum.
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