Simon Harris denies he was warned against offering free smear tests last year 1 year ago

Simon Harris denies he was warned against offering free smear tests last year

Simon Harris has denied he was warned against offering free smear tests to all women last year following the CervicalCheck scandal.

The Minister for Health said that he was never informed of former clinical lead Dr Grainne Flannelly's concerns that labs would be unable to deal with the considerable increase of samples brought on by the HSE's offer.

Dr Flannelly said she had passed on concerns that offering free out-of-cycle smears to all women would "undermine" the CervicalCheck programme.

Harris has denied that he or the Department of Health were advised against offering the free smears until after the decision was made.

He said:

"As the Director General of the HSE said to the Health Committee and as the Secretary General of the Department of Health said to the Health Committee previously I never received any contrary advice in relation to the provision of free repeat smear tests so I'm very happy to reiterate that point today.

"It is clear though and I've been making this clear in parliamentary questions for quite a period of time, it is clear that after the decision was made, that some in the CervicalCheck programme did express some concerns in relation to the operationalising of it."

This comes after Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly said that Harris had misled the Dáil about the information he received prior to announcing the out-of-cycle screenings.

"(Dr Flannery) predicted what would come to pass, she predicted what we are dealing with today," Donnelly said.

"What she says directly contradicts the minister's position and what she says suggests that the minister has misled the Dáil for a second time.

"He misled the Dáil on the Children's Hospital and has apologised for doing so."

CervicalCheck was facing a backlog of approximately 87,000 tests in January.

It is estimated that the CervicalCheck scandal, in which over 200 women were given false negative results, led to an additional 9,000 women opting for a free smear test.