Saturday November 28, 2020

Former clinical director of CervicalCheck said she had concerns about decision to offer an additional smear test from the outset

Dr Grainne Flannelly's submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Health represents the first time that she has made any public comment since her high-profile resignation last year

Susan Mitchell

Deputy Editor and Health Editor

@susmitchellsbp
3rd April, 2019
Former clinical director of CervicalCheck Dr Grainne Flanelly

In a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Health, former clinical director of CervicalCheck Dr Grainne Flannelly has outlined her version of events.

It represents the first time that Flannelly has made any public comment since her high-profile resignation last year.

Flannelly was the first person to stand aside from her role in the immediate aftermath of the smear-test controversy.

She did so after Minister for Health Simon Harris said he had lost confidence in the management of the CervicalCheck screening programme.

In her submission, Flannelly states that she had concerns about the government’s decision to offer an additional smear test from the outset.

She said that in the hours before the Government announced the plan, she advised against it. She said she warned senior health officials that such a plan would “fundamentally undermine the screening programme.”

Flannelly said she aired these concerns to a senior HSE official, who subsequently had a discussion with an official from the Department of Health.

Her submission raises obvious questions for health minister Simon Harris and his department.

Harris has repeatedly said that he received no clinical advice that warned against offering women a free out-of-cycle smear test. Recently, this newspaper reported that the Department of Health had indeed received such advice.

Last year, 90,000 extra women presented for a smear test.

The additional volume has created unprecedented pressure on the health service.

There is now a backlog of almost 80,000 women who are waiting up to 33 weeks to receive their results and some women have received delayed diagnoses.

One year ago, before this crisis unfolded, women were waiting 2-4 weeks.

Flannelly’s submission, which we are publishing in its entirety, is available to download HERE.

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