An audit on the HSE's cervical smear testing errors has revealed that over 12 women may have died after a delayed cancer diagnosis. 

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is investigating why at least 206 women received a delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer under the CervicalCheck programme.

It is claimed the audit found that half of these women were not told that they had a delayed diagnosis and may have benefited from earlier treatment.

Early reports from the audit found that 12 women have since died. Fine Gael TD and Health committee member Kate O’Connell has today said she would not be surprised if the number of deaths has reached double digits.

The CervicalCheck controversy hit the headlines last week due to the case of Vicky Phelan, a mother of two, who brought her case to the High Court after a missed diagnosis in 2011. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2014.

Vicky’s case exposed a cervical screening error that affects over 200 more Irish women. The HSE Serious Incident Management Team set up a helpline over the weekend which has received more than 2,000 calls from women concerned about their smear test results.

Deputy Kate O’Connell told Newstalk today that the basis of three-year CervicalChecks is intended to have the best survival outcome for women. The survival rate of 90% falls dramatically after three years, she said.

“Five year undetected pre-cancerous cells, you’re looking at 30-40% of the women not surviving,” said Deputy O’Connell.

“So if cervical cancer is not detected the outcomes are very bad. I expect that number to grow, quite frankly, I do expect it to be definitely double digits.”

Health Minister Simon Harris said the state is making plans for any woman with concerns to get a repeat test. The HSE invites women to contact the CervicalCheck headline on Freephone 1800 45 45 55, Monday to Sunday 9am to 6pm.

Labour’s health spokesman Alan Kelly told Newstalk FM that a statutory inquiry is necessary to uncover the facts.

“It is an absolute disgrace that people haven’t been told the truth all these years,” Mr Kelly said.