Up to 1500 women could have been affected by CervicalCheck scandal

Vicky Phelan

Vicky Phelan

Health Minister Simon Harris revealed that that a "potentially considerable number of cases" where women developed cancer were not subjected to an audit.

Chair of the HSE Serious Incident Management Team Patrick Lynch said the women had a right to know about their cases.

'HPV is associated with 70pc of all cervical cancers and I would stress to women the importance of CervicalCheck and the HPV vaccination programme as key measures in reducing their risk of developing cervical cancer'.

The smear tests of nearly 1,500 women diagnosed with cervical cancer over the past ten years may be analysed as part of a review announced by the health minister, The Times has learnt.

Also speaking at the briefing, HSE director general Tony O'Brien, said that he first learned "of the entirety" of the Vicky Phelan cases when he read about it on the RTE website last week.

Last week, Ms Phelan settled her High Court action against a United States laboratory for €2.5m. None of these women were contacted to make them aware of the review.

However this was incorrect and by the time she had another smear test in 2014, she had cervical cancer.

Seventeen women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy have died, the HSE has confirmed.

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He also said he is bringing patient safety legislation to Cabinet next week.

HSE director-general Tony O'Brien has apologised to all of the women involved and to their families for the "completely unacceptable" practices. "By God am I going to take these guys on, I think it's disgraceful". He is expected to discuss this issue with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the coming days.

Mr Harris said he did not have "specific figures" but agreed with Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly that it could be in the region of 1,500.

However, the Taoiseach said that despite the controversy, "cancer screening does work".

A helpline set up for people who have concerns has received 6,000 calls. He said a liaison nurse will coordinate with the women.

Focus is now turning to the women affected by the screening controversy and what will happen next.

Ms Phelan said she was contacted by the Taoiseach's press adviser on Tuesday evening asking to arrange a private meeting."I said yes, I would meet him in principle, but I'm trying to concentrate on my treatment which I have to go to this week and said that I would get back to him", she said.

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