Doctor leading inquiry into cervical cancer controversy promises to be ‘frank and forthright’

Dr Gabriel Scally said it "may not be possible for me to attribute blame" as part of his work

Doctor leading inquiry into cervical cancer controversy promises to be ‘frank and forthright’

Dr Gabriel Scally. Image: Stephanie Grogan

Updated 21.30

The doctor leading the Scoping Inquiry into the cervical cancer controversy is promising to be ‘frank and forthright’.

The independent inquiry - which Cabinet signed off on earlier today - will look at the US labs involved in the smear tests and who knew what about the non-disclosure of audits to patients.

Dr Gabriel Scally from the Royal Society of Medicine in the UK is heading up the investigation.

He has asked Dr Karin Denton - an expert in women's health and Consultant in Cellular Pathology at North Bristol NHS Trust - to assist in the review.

The inquiry is due to report back by the end of June.

Dr Scally acknowledged that he may not be able to apportion blame as part of his work.

He explained: "It may not be possible for me to attribute blame, and certainly to individuals - I think that would probably be outside my remit.

"But if I find serious problems, I will certainly be pointing to those serious problems - and it will be a matter then for the next stage of the process."

Addressing the women who have been affected by the controversy, Dr Scally observed: "I'd like to say to them that I look forward to talking with them in the days and weeks to come.

"I look forward to working with them to try and ensure that the sort of problems that they have encountered with the system do not happen to anybody else."

Health Minister Simon Harris earlier confirmed Dr Scally has already spoken with Vicky Phelan, the woman whose case brought the scandal to public attention.

Cervical Check audit

Separately, the HSE says it has made contact to date with 201 women out of the 209 directly affected by the controversy.

They are women where audits showed tests "could have provided a different result".

The health authority says so far a total of 3,649 calls have been returned to women.

It says the call backs take some time - because when the person has a history of referral for colposcopy treatment or a history of cancer, it is providing a consultation with a clinical staff member with expertise.

The HSE said: "The service provided on our information line and waiting times have improved steadily during the week, but our call team remain extremely busy, and our priority is women with specific clinical queries or a history of cervical cancer."

Anybody with concerns about their tests can contact the helpline on 1800 45 45 55.

Reporting by Stephanie Grogan and Stephen McNeice