Northern Ireland news

`Serious work to be done' around open disclosure in Ireland's healthcare system

Dr Gabriel Scally pictured yesterday at the publication of his review of the implementation of recommendations of the scoping inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening programme. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

There is "unfinished business" and "serious work to be done" around the area of open disclosure in Ireland's healthcare system, a Northern Ireland-born doctor last night said.

Publishing his 39-page report on the implementation of recommendations from his 2018 scoping inquiry into the Cervical Check screening programme, Dr Gabriel Scally, from Belfast, said issues remain around resolution and other areas.

The medic said that there is still a lot of work left to do around open disclosure and achieving resolution.

The health specialist said that the treatment of some women in the healthcare system remains "completely unacceptable".

He was also critical of healthcare staff who have claimed in the past that CervicalCheck was as good as any other cervical screening programme in the world, describing the comments as "entirely reprehensible".

"If you can't bring yourself to acknowledge past failings, why would anyone trust you today? Some of the things that have been extraordinarily hurtful and damaging," he said.

He said some of these attitudes are "still prevalent" in the health system.

Dr Scally, who was formerly chief administrative medical officer and director of public health for the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, where he contributed to the founding of a young people's sexual health service, was tasked with reviewing the cases of more than 200 women who were not informed that their smear test results had produced false negative results.

Assessing the progress made in implementing his 50 recommendations, Dr Scally said: "The whole area of open disclosure I think is unfinished business.

"I think there is a lot to be done still there and I've been very moved by some of the women involved.

"Some of them are now dead and took it into their own hands to achieve resolution by sitting down with the consultants, that they had a legitimate grievance about their behaviour in terms of non-disclosure and discussing that with them face to face, and hearing and exchanging views and hearing how each of them felt.

"I know that made a difference. We need to engage much more and facilitate much more that form of resolution".

Dr Scally said: "We should start on the basis that we expect all of our health professionals in this country to be open and honest when an error has happened.

"The regulatory bodies need to waken up to that...," he said.

He also said it was "extraordinary" that there remains a legal prohibition on anybody making a complaint to the HSE about the clinical judgment of a doctor or other health professional providing care funded by the HSE.

Northern Ireland news