This is a difficult and emotive issue and has caused concern throughout the country, not just among people who have been affected and their families, but among women in general, and women, in particular, who avail of cervical screening. I believe the Government has taken a lot actions in a swift manner. We established a serious incident management team to go into CervicalCheck and deal with the issues there. We established a scoping inquiry, asked Dr. Scally to do his work, and secured agreement on a cross-party basis for the terms of reference of the inquiry. We secured agreement with doctors to enable women to have a free visit to their GP and a repeat smear test if they felt that was necessary or wanted that done for reassurance. We have appointed a team comprising members of the UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. This team is going back over all of the old slides and smear tests of the women affected to make sure they are quality assured and to find out if abnormalities were missed and if there were abnormalities that should not have been missed.
We have also put in place a package of practical supports for women and their families, extending from medical cards to access to experimental medicines, assistance with childcare and so on. Delivery of that is still under way, and in each case it is a tailored package. Public health nurses and others have met individually with women and their families to discuss with them what type of supports they want. Because the supports are individual and tailored, it is taking time to put them in place, but that is very much under way. In addition, we have accepted Dr. Scally's recommendation for a payment to be made to women right away to cover some of their expenses arising from dealing with his inquiry. We have also confirmed the Government's decision to move to a more modern form of cervical screening using human papillomavirus, HPV, as the primary test. That was planned anyway, but we are going to press ahead and become one of the first countries in the western world to do it.
Dr. Scally was appointed by the Government to do this work, and the terms of reference were agreed by the Oireachtas. Should it be the case that anyone obstructs the work of Dr. Scally, they will also be obstructing the Government. I want to make it very clear to any agency or public body, if it is not already, that we expect full co-operation with Dr. Scally and his team and will accept nothing less than that. The Minister for Health met Dr. Scally in recent days to assure him that if he runs into any further issues, he has a direct line to the Minister to deal with them. I note from yesterday's statement that while he expressed enormous frustration with the speed at which he received documentation and the format it came in, he said he was broadly content with the interaction he was having.
Regarding the Deputy's suggestion of rolling this into a commission of inquiry, we would have to give that proper consideration. One of the advantages of having a scoping inquiry is that even though it was only set up a few weeks ago, we already have a progress report, an interim report and findings and recommendations related to one of the terms of reference. Those recommendations are in the process of being implemented. While it is intended to have a commission of investigation once Dr. Scally has finished his work, it is important to bear in mind the consequences of such a commission. If we had set up a commission of investigation set up, we would not have had that progress. We would probably find that the investigation would run much more slowly and that, because of the statutory nature, everyone would have a lawyer. We have found on a number of occasions that it takes months to set commissions of inquiry up and a year or two years before they complete their work and produce findings and recommendations. The point of the Scally inquiry was to have initial an scoping inquiry to quickly find out as much as we could and do as much as we could before a commission was set up, because that will probably take more than a year if not two or three, as they always do. Many women, unfortunately and sadly, do not have that time.