The HSE confirm 17 women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy have died

Vicky Phelan

Emails released in the Phelan case showed that the CervicalCheck program had advised some doctors not to tell their patients about the 2014 review, arguing that finding out about the false negatives would not affect their current treatment.

Chair of the HSE Serious Incident Management Team, Patrick Lynch, today said that 17 women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy had died.

Simon Harris, the health minister, said that the families of all those who died would be informed about the audit by today.

Ireland's programme will be benchmarked against worldwide counterparts and any implications for other cancer screening programmes will also be identified.

Dr. Grainne Flannelly, the clinical director of the government-run CervicalCheck program, which provides free smear tests to women between 25 and 60, resigned over the weekend.

The HSE also confirmed today that 162 of those 208 women were not told that a review had been conducted or what the results of the said review were. This Clinical Expert Panel will also produce an overall report to inform HIQA's investigation and the work of the International Peer Review Group.

Last week, she settled a damages claim against a USA lab for €2.5 million over the incorrect diagnosis. "I do believe in the programme, cervical smears do save women's lives and what I don't want to happen is more women diagnosed with cervical cancer and I thought it was important that I come out and say that because I think people would listen to me rather than the HSE at the moment".

She told the HSE of her intention to resign saying she was sorry that recent events caused distress and worry to women.

The number which can be contacted on 1800 45 45 55 will open at 9am and close at 6pm this evening.

Mr Harris said he hopes these steps "will ensure the integrity of the cervical screening programme at the same time as providing learning for all cancer screening programmes".

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