More than 2000 women call Cervical Check helpline

The Republic's health minister Simon Harris

Update 11.20am: The HSE says it can not confirm reports that 12 women whose cancer diagnosis was delayed have died.

The women will be contacted on Monday and offered appointments for the coming days.

A special helpline was set up to answer the calls of women concerned about the results of their smear tests.

They're among 206 women identified in an audit of CervicalCheck, who may have had a delayed misdiagnosis were not told about it by their doctors.

"As soon as I heard the voice I knew who it was and he said "hi Vicky, it is Simon Harris here", Ms Phelan explained.

Meanwhile the HSE has revealed that over 2,000 people contacted a CervicalCheck helpline over the weekend.

The Health Minister is considering a statutory inquiry, but the health watchdog HIQA has not yet been asked to investigate.

She said she had made a decision to step down "to allow the programme to continue its important work" and she apologised to women who have been distressed by recent events.

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Last week it emerged that a total of 206 women developed the disease after having a misdiagnosed smear in the country's free screening programme, Cervical Check.

Ms Phelan underwent a smear test in 2011 and was told that no abnormalities were found.

"We're carrying out roughly 250,000 smears per annum, we're after reducing the incidents of cervical cancer by 7%".

Last week, Ms Phelan settled her High Court action against a U.S. laboratory for €2.5m.

According to the HSE, nearly 1,500 cases of cervical cancer have been notified to the cervical screening programme, CervicalCheck, since it began a decade ago.

Following Minister Harris's comments that he had "no confidence" in the CervicalCheck management team, clinical director of the programme, Dr Grainne Flannelly, stepped down from her position on Saturday. It said that while many of these cases warranted no further review, reviews were needed in nearly 30% of cases.

Earlier, RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland programme said that figures they had seen show at least 12 women who were wrongly given the cancer test all clear have died.

He said a "roadmap" is now needed on what should happen next, and stressed the Government must do all it can to re-assure the public as to the competence and safety of the CervicalCheck smear test system.

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