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HIQA wrote to Minister for ‘clarity’ on CervicalCheck investigation

At HIQA’s Board meeting on 9 May, CEO Mr Phelim Quinn advised that both he and Chief Inspector and Director of Regulation Ms Mary Dunnion met senior Department of Health officials during the previous week. The officials had indicated that Minister Harris intended to mandate the Authority to undertake a statutory investigation into the widely-reported issues at CervicalCheck.

Following their discussion, the Minister wrote to the Authority’s then Chairperson, Mr Brian McEnery, requesting HIQA to undertake a Section 9 investigation into the circumstances whereby women who had been screened by CervicalCheck developed cervical cancer and where an audit had discovered a different finding to the original result.

After the Ministerial request, a Cabinet decision was taken on 8 May that a “scoping inquiry” would be carried out, with the potential of this leading to a Commission of Investigation. Dr Gabriel Scally, a UK public health expert, has been appointed to undertake the scoping inquiry.

HIQA’s Board agreed that Mr McEnery should write to the Minister seeking “clarity and direction” in respect of his request to HIQA.

The minutes stated it was evident from media reports that there were “some misunderstandings about HIQA’s investigative powers”.

Also during the meeting, Board member Dr Jim Kiely declared a potential conflict of interest prior to the discussion about the Minister’s request for a statutory investigation, noting he was Chief Medical Officer at the Department when CervicalCheck was established 10 years ago. However, it was deemed there was no specific conflict of interest.

A HIQA spokesperson told MI: “We wrote seeking clarity on the Minister’s original request. We were advised to await taking any further action until after the scoping inquiry.”

According to the Department, the scoping inquiry will “independently examine the facts”, including “details of the non-disclosure to patients relating to CervicalCheck clinical audits”. It will also examine the tendering, contracting, operation, etc, of the contracted labs.

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