The 221+ patient support group for those affected by the cervical screening controversy has accused CervicalCheck of an attempt to rewrite history in the affair.

The row relates to a 'Guide to talking about cervical screening' issued by CervicalCheck to the media, broadcasters, commentators and academics.

In a letter to CervicalCheck, obtained by RTÉ News, 221+ says that the document fails to acknowledge and respect the past.

The group has taken particular issue with the statement in the guide that "no lives were put at risk by doctors not informing patients of the results of the audit" and that the non-communication of the CervicalCheck audit results "did not impact the treatment or care of the people concerned".

"This guide document sets out the events of that time and since to be that women were either not informed or badly informed about their clinical audit result," 221+ said.

The 221+ group said that this was a wholly incomplete and selective description of what happened.

System 'refuses to recognise' mistakes

In a statement, 221+ said that those affected want to move on from the debacle but "find ourselves coming up against a system that refuses to recognise the mistakes it has made".

"It's not possible to trust a system that continues to deny the existence of something that we personally experienced, as it is doing again through this document," the group added.

The organisation said that the guide ignored the key findings of the Scally Review, High Court decisions in the case of women affected and some who have died, as well as Dáil statements of apology by two taoisigh.

The 221+ group said that it fully supports the practice of screening and wants women to engage with screening and it wants to play a positive and active role in building public confidence in screening.

In a statement, CervicalCheck said it had issued a media guide as part of its work to increase public understanding of cervical screening.

It said it would never wish to add to the distress or trauma of anyone affected by cervical cancer, especially the people in the 221+ group which it works very well with.

CervicalCheck said it had received the group's correspondence about the media guide and have offered and agreed to meet to listen very carefully to their concerns.

Crisis exposed by Vicky Phelan

The CervicalCheck controversy first came to light in April 2018 when Vicky Phelan, from Limerick, sued the Health Service Executive and one of the laboratories Clinical Pathology Labs Texas.

A High Court settlement of €2.5 million was reached, with CPL, without admission of liability.

It emerged that Vicky Phelan's 2011 smear test, which showed no abnormalities, was found in the 2014 audit of smear tests on a number of women, to be incorrect.

Vicky Phelan was the first woman to go public on the issue.

Vicky Phelan a year after her High Court settlement (Pic - Rolling News)

The 221+ group now represents several hundred people affected by the controversy.

During the controversy, it emerged that CervicalCheck had done an audit - a look back - on every case of a cervical cancer diagnosis, to see what the original slide reviewed had found.

The review involved over 3,100 cases.

The audit had essentially been done for educational purposes.

Women had not been told their slides had been reviewed and that in many cases, they might have benefited from an earlier diagnosis, or different intervention.

An initial group of 221 women or families were identified by the health service.

The 2018 Scally Report into the controversy found that the problems uncovered in CervicalCheck were redolent of a whole system failure in a system that was "doomed to fail at some point".

In October 2020, a CervicalCheck Tribunal was set up to hear and determine a certain limited number of claims arising in respect of the State's cervical screening programme.

It has heard a small number of claims, however many women or their families have opted to take their case to the High Court.