Cervical Check helpline receives hundreds of calls

The helpline was due to launch this morning, but was delayed for more than an hour due to a technical problem

Cervical Check helpline receives hundreds of calls

Simon Harris. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated 13.55

A helpline for anybody with concerns about the cervical screening programme has received hundreds of calls today, according to the HSE.

The phone service was announced following revelations that more than 200 reviews of tests suggested women with cervical cancer should have received 'earlier intervention'.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the Cervical Check helpline - which is available on 1800 45 45 55 - was due to open at 9am.

However, calls to the helpline shortly after the planned launch were met with a message stating it was only open between Monday and Friday.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the issue was caused by a technical glitch.

It ultimately opened shortly before 10.30am, Simon Harris confirmed.

Minister Harris admitted the glitch was the 'last thing anyone needed'.

In a statement this afternoon, the HSE said the helpline had received 300 calls as of 1pm today - on top of around 700 calls to the service yesterday.

The HSE, which has formed a 'Serious Incident Management Team' in response to the Cervical Check situation, said: "Clinical personnel across the country are reviewing relevant files relating to the 206 cases over the weekend with a view to providing assurance to SIMT that all of the women have been contacted at this time. We expect the majority of this work to be completed by Monday (30th).

"If it is found that any women have not been contacted by their treating clinicians at this time, that appropriate arrangements will be put in place to communicate with these women or their families immediately."

Their statement adds: "The Cervical Check Programme would like to apologise to those women who were trying to contact the help-line between 9am and 1030am. The service provider has earlier apologised to the Cervical Check for this technical problem."

Cervical Check

The helpline is one of a number of measures announced amid concerns over Cervical Check.

The Department of Health yesterday confirmed that a senior medical team had been sent in to take charge of the programme.

Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday he currently cannot have confidence in the managers of the screening programme.

Minister Harris ordered a full review of the programme earlier this week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he thinks most of the affected patients have been informed, but added "we are going to make sure we establish the facts of this affair".

The latest Cervical Check figures were released after Vicky Phelan's case this week highlighted the issue.

Ms Phelan settled a case against a US lab on Wednesday, after being wrongly informed in 2011 that she had the all clear.

Three years later, a review found the results were incorrect.

She was diagnosed with cervical cancer around the same time, but she only found out about that review last year.