Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Ceisteanna (50, 69)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

50. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health if he or his officials understood that the second Scally report was to be delivered in February 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27723/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

69. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health if he or his advisers received communications in January or February 2019 confirming the Scally report was imminent; and if so, if he will publish same. [27452/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Ceist ar Health)

I return to this topic. Was the Minister or his officials of the understanding that the second Scally report, published a couple of weeks ago, was actually due in February 2019? As the Minister knows, I have taken a deep interest in this because it was my understanding that it was due in February of this year and to be presented.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 69 together.

Deputy Kelly has taken a deep interest in this. As he will be aware from responses to previous parliamentary questions, I met Dr. Gabriel Scally to discuss the progress of his supplementary report on 31 January, following an excellent meeting I had in my Department with members of the 221+ patient support group, which Dr. Scally kindly attended. Following this meeting, I understood from Dr. Scally that the supplementary report would be finalised shortly thereafter. This continued to be my understanding and that of my officials up until 14 February, when Dr. Scally met officials in my Department to discuss the progress of the supplementary report. He indicated at that meeting that the work would take longer than expected. He wrote to me on the following day, 15 February, advising that the breadth and complexity of the issues involved in the supplementary report required further time for analysis. Neither I nor my advisers received any further communication, written or oral, from Dr. Scally on this issue. The supplementary report of the scoping inquiry was received in my Department on Tuesday, 4 June, and Dr. Scally briefed me on its content on 7 June. I then brought the report to the Government, and I published it on the website of my Department following the Government decision on 11 June. Dr. Scally is attending the health committee meeting on Thursday and will have an opportunity to expand further on these points.

I thank the Minister. On 12 February, the Minister answered a question by me saying he was awaiting Dr. Scally's report, which he was expecting shortly thereafter. The following day, at a meeting of the health committee, the Minister's Secretary General said the report was imminent. Obviously, the Secretary General of the Department would have been in touch. Dr. Scally was in Ireland the following day. If the Secretary General was saying the report was imminent at the meeting of the health committee, his understanding was that the report was going to be given to the Minister and published. I understand from patient advocates, to whom the Minister referred and to whom we both speak, that the report was due in February. They understood it was coming out in February. I really want to know what happened such that it took four more months to be issued. It was to be nine months in total. I took four months longer than expected, however. What changed on 12, 13 and 14 February?

The timeline works logically. On 12 February, I answered a parliamentary question stating I expected to receive Dr. Scally's report shortly thereafter, because I did. On 13 February, my Secretary General was at a committee meeting and reiterated that, because he too expected it. On 14 February, Dr. Scally visited my Department and said he would require a longer period. On 15 February, he put that in writing to me. I am aware he has been communicating with the Deputy also. On the last occasion we had statements on CervicalCheck here, the Deputy raised questions in regard to this. Dr. Scally stated that, as the Deputy knows, he had hoped to complete the supplementary report on laboratories fairly soon after the publication of the final report and that the discovery of additional laboratories, particularly the four revealed in January, added considerable complication. He stated he had hoped to be able to deliver a report to the Minister by the end of February or the beginning of March. This very much ties in with my timeline. He said the late availability of data on laboratories, combined with the necessity of engaging in due process around the issues dealt within the report and his analysis of these matters, rendered that an undeliverable timescale. He said he was sure the Deputy would appreciate the importance he attaches to accuracy and also to his being able to comment in an honest and forthright fashion on what has been uncovered. He stated the Deputy will also appreciate that he attaches equal importance to his independence.

Dr. Scally took longer because, according to him, the laboratories were not forthcoming regarding the data. As the Deputy knows, Dr. Scally discovered four more laboratories, most disappointingly, in January. He is extraordinarily independent in his business and takes that independence very seriously.

I do not doubt that. What the Minister quoted is a letter from Dr. Scally to myself that I was not aware he had.

Dr. Scally sent me a copy of it. We all have the same information.

Interesting. The real issue for me is that I asked Dr. Scally when he found out about the laboratory in Manchester and its lack of accreditation.

One of the main issues from the first report was the fact that Dr. Scally felt that the accreditation issue was appropriate. He found that the issue regarding Manchester was surprising and disturbing. I want to find out when Dr. Scally found out about the non-accreditation of the lab in Manchester. Was it sometime in January? If it was in January, then what the Minister understood on 31 January, and the complexities, would have been known already. All the issues that have been outlined as an explanation for the delay would have been known at that time. Patient advocates still understood, however, that this report was coming out in February. This is a very important question. I have asked Dr. Scally but I have not got a satisfactory answer.

It is an important question. I accept Deputy Kelly's bona fides regarding this matter. All I can tell him about is the chain of correspondence, meetings and parliamentary questions regarding my situation. Dr. Scally made it clear that he expected to give me a report at the end of February. That was the information I relayed to these Houses. It then took Dr. Scally longer to complete the report. He wanted to get it right. He wanted to get all the data and analyse those so that he could deliver the report with the assertiveness that we all expect from him and that the patient representatives respect. It took him some time longer to do that. The timeline concerning when the report arrived in my Department, when I went to Government and when I published it is all a matter of public record as well. Dr. Scally will be before the health committee. He is best placed to answer these questions and Deputy Kelly is best placed to ask them. Dr. Scally is before the committee on Thursday and I am sure he will be delighted to expand further on this issue.