The Health Service Executive has confirmed that the number of women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy has increased from 209 to 221.

HSE Director General John Conaghan told the Public Accounts Committee, in response to questions from Labour’s Alan Kelly, that a further 12 cases have been identified.

The committee was that latest figures show there are close to 40 cases being taken by women

Mr Conaghan that so far three cases have been settled, 35 are active and there are two potential cases.

In relation to the review of 3,000 smear tests which has yet to begin, Mr Kelly said it will be impossible for the Scally Review to be completed by the end of August.

Tracey Conroy, Acute Hospitals Division assistant secretary in the Department of Health, said there are ongoing daily engagements.

She said it was never intended that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) review would be completed in advance of the Scally review.

She said RCOG has been working on what is needed in terms of examining the files and the case histories and they are very close to finalising how to proceed.

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Deputy Kelly also pointed out that some of the women affected are having difficulties in getting slides because they are blocked by the HSE due to a protocol.

CervicalCheck Acting Clinical Director Dr Peter McKenna said it would be a new departure from practice that patients would be looking for slides.

However, he said, there is no disagreement on the principle of giving the slides to patients.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy also said some of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer are having difficulties accessing their medical files.

She asked why there was an impediment to releasing the files from the laboratories, when the Sstate had a contract with the same labs.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry asked if there was now a clear protocol in place as to who tells women that their cancers were missed in earlier smears.

Dr McKenna said there is currently no audit in place so this matter does not arise, but the outcome of the Scally Review is being awaited before new protocols are being put in place.

Deputy MacSharry said the HSE should be "pioneering" and put in place a protocol before the Scally Review is completed.

Additional Reporting Justin McCarthy