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Dr Scally refrains from commenting on screening judgment

Dr Gabriel Scally, head of the CervicalCheck scoping inquiry, has told the Medical Independent (MI) he will not comment publicly on a recent High Court ruling that labs carrying out screening should have “absolute confidence” in their decision when giving a sample an all-clear result. He told MI that while he had his own views on the matter, he would not make an official statement.

However, he added: “These are legal judgments within the legal system, and I’ve already made it very clear I think the legal system as it relates to medical error needs to be changed radically.”

Speaking in Dublin at the RCSI’s conference on open disclosure and medical professionalism, held on 9 July, Dr Scally said he was shocked by the “brutal” nature of some medical treatments for cervical cancer.

During his talk, he said women reported that their treatment had had severe impacts on “their fertility, on their sex lives, on all sorts of physical side-effects of treatment”.

Speaking to MI, Dr Scally said policy-makers and health management “have a lot of thinking to do” on how medical errors should be dealt with, and how to cater to the needs of patients affected by these errors.

“The system isn’t really working and it will require a lot of work to put it right,” he said.

However, Dr Scally praised the HSE’s actions since the release of his scoping inquiry report last September.

“They’ve appointed really good people into key positions within CervicalCheck,” he said. “They’ve done excellent quality assurance visits to the current labs, and the ones they’re intending to use. It’s a real sea-change, I think, in their whole approach.” He referenced Director of the National Screening Service Mr Damien McCallion as worthy of praise in this regard. 

Dr Scally is currently writing a second progress report based upon the implementation of his initial report’s recommendations.

He was speaking prior to the emergence of the latest controversy affecting CervicalCheck, whereby HPV test results were not issued, or delayed, for some women and their GPs.  HSE CEO Mr Paul Reid has commissioned an “immediate rapid review” of the incident. The review is being independently led by Prof Brian MacCraith, who will complete his report by 2 August.

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