The head of an initial inquiry into the CervicalCheck controversy has said that he will be "frank and forthright" in his investigation.

Dr Gabriel Scally said that his investigation will be independent of the Government and the HSE and from his experience, it is possible to get to the bottom of medical failures.

However, he said that it may not be possible for the inquiry to attribute blame, and said that if serious problems are found, he will be pointing to them.

Dr Scally is President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and is Chair of the Soil Association in the UK.

He was speaking after the Terms of Reference into the inquiry were published by the Department of Health.

The inquiry will examine details of the non-disclosure of information to Vicky Phelan, relating to the audit carried out following her diagnosis of cervical cancer in July 2014.

It will also examine the apparent widespread practice of non-disclosure to patients relating to CervicalCheck audits.

The inquiry will look at the management and level of knowledge of various parties including, but not limited to the Health Service Executive, the Department of Health or other public authorities in relation to the controversy.


Read more: 

Cervical Check inquiry - Who is Dr Gabriel Scally?
Nearly 5,000 women still waiting for call back over CervicalCheck
What is the CervicalCheck controversy about?


The manner and means through which the relevant facts were shared, escalated, reported and communicated will also be included in the inquiry and it will engage directly with Ms Phelan and any other woman affected or her next of kin, who may wish to have an input.

All aspects of CervicalCheck, the information provided by CervicalCheck to those receiving the service, the policy of open disclosure not being implemented, as well as the tendering and contracting of cytology laboratory services will be included in the inquiry.

Other screening programmes operated by the National Screening Service particularly in relation to quality assurance and clinical audit, open disclosure and governance will also be examined.

The inquiry will incorporate further elements if identified and will issue discrete reports or findings on particular matters if it is in a position to do so and provide a progress update in the first week of June.

A report to the Minister for Health Simon Harris will be given by the end of June setting out issues and recommendations to be addressed by means of a Commission of Investigation.

The minister said that Dr Scally will be assisted by Dr Karin Denton.

Almost two weeks after Vicky Phelan's case came to light, its ramifications continue to be debated in the political sphere.

Ms Phelan, a Limerick mother-of-two, was diagnosed with cancer three years after her smear test results of 2011 were incorrectly reported as clear.

She now has terminal cancer.

More than 200 other women diagnosed with cancer may have missed out on earlier medical intervention and were not told about the clinical audit.

The HSE has said that, to date, hospitals have made contact with 201 of the 209 women or their families.

Three ministers say Tony O'Brien should step down

It comes as three ministers expressed the view at Cabinet that Tony O'Brien should step down as Director General of the Health Service Executive, according to sources.

RTÉ News understands that Ministers Finian McGrath, Michael Ring and Katherine Zappone stated that he should step down from his position.

Mr O’Brien, who is due to leave the role in July, has been under pressure to step aside earlier following the controversy over the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Although Ms Zappone believes that Mr O'Brien should step aside, she will not break ranks with the Government in any confidence motion on Mr O'Brien next week.

That is according to a spokesperson for the Independent Ministers in Government who also confirmed that Mr McGrath will adopt a similar position.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou Ms McDonald has called Mr Varadkar to declare no confidence in the HSE Director General in the Dáil.

Mr Varadkar said that Mr O'Brien had eight weeks to serve, and his focus should be on getting to the bottom of the issue and to put things right.

He said the post for a new director general would be advertised in the next few weeks and added that the board of the HSE would be re-established.

This evening, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said that Mr Varadkar has confidence that Mr O'Brien will over the next seven weeks "finish the job he started".

The Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly said Mr O’Brien should be dismissed as the person who had ultimate governance over the helpline established for women with concerns about cervical smears.

Speaking during a private members debate in the Dáil this evening, Mr Donnelly said the operation of the helpline had been "shambolic".

"It is an ongoing political error to allow the Director General of the HSE to remain in situ," he said.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris and Mr O'Brien are due before the joint Oireachtas Committee on health tomorrow.

CervicalCheck helpline: 1800 45 45 55