Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (410)

Michael McGrath

Question:

410. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health the number of claims ongoing by the State Claims Agency in relation to late diagnosis and missed diagnosis in relation to failings in the CervicalCheck screening programme; the number of cases settled; the amount paid out in claims to date; and the legal costs of the cases to date. [44814/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The State Claims Agency (SCA) has a statutory remit to manage personal injury claims, including claims in respect of clinical negligence, on behalf of Delegated State Authorities (DSA’s), including the Health Service Executive.

On a point of clarity, while the Deputy's question does reference late diagnosis and missed diagnosis, it is important to note that a screening test is not a diagnostic test. Cervical screening aims to prevent cervical cancer through the early detection and treatment of pre-cancerous changes on the cervix. Earlier detection can often increase treatment options, as well as reduce the invasiveness of that treatment. It is estimated that regular cervical screening can prevent 75% (or 3 out of 4) of cervical cancer cases. Since 2008, 1,200 invasive cancers have been detected by CervicalCheck. More than 50,000 women with high grade abnormalities (CIN 2 & 3) have been diagnosed and treated, considerably reducing their risk of developing cervical cancer. CervicalCheck has been successful in reducing cervical cancer rates in Ireland - these dropped from around 14 per 100,000 in the period 2009-2011 to 10 per 100,000 in the period 2013-2015. Cervical screening will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer, and some women will still develop cervical cancer despite regular screening.

Also, to clarify the Deputy's reference to failings in the cervical cancer screening programme, it should be noted that the Report of the Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck Screening Programme, conducted by Dr Gabriel Scally, is unequivocal in stating that the widespread non-disclosure of the results of historical screening audits was a substantial breach of trust for the women and families concerned. It caused significant distress and additional suffering to those affected. However, Dr Scally was clear in his Final Report, published September 2018, that the Inquiry was satisfied with the quality management processes in the labs contracted by CervicalCheck.

His report presented no evidence that either the rates of discordant smear reporting or the performance of the programme fell below what is expected in a cervical screening programme. He confirmed that he found no reason why the existing contracts for laboratory services should not continue until the new HPV regime is introduced.

The SCA has provided me with the information set out below in relation to the Deputy's question. This information is correct as at 30 October 2019.

Response from State Claims Agency:

The information contained within this report has been extracted from the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and is as at 30th October 2019.

1. Number of Claims on hand

There are currently 125 claims relating to allegations of misinterpretation by the National Screening Service under active management by the State Claims Agency.

2. Number of Claims Settled

To date the SCA has settled 8 of these claims.

3. Amount paid out in claims to date

Due to the low number of claims, this figure is not published as it could lead to the identification of an individual.

4. Legal costs of the cases

In respect of all associated National Screening Services cases, legal costs amounting to €1,498,426 have been paid. These legal costs include fees paid to mediation services, which is consistent with the SCA’s policy of using mediation wherever possible to resolve these claims in a non-adversarial manner. These legal fees also include matters not relating to the areas in which the State has already accepted liability. It is anticipated that much of the work carried out in respect of these initial cases, and by extension the fees incurred, will be applied in resolving future cases that have been notified to the SCA and that this work will not need to be repeated in managing these future cases.