Days before Ms Phelan's court case, Minister Harris was briefed that the errors were not a 'patient safety incident'.

The latest development in the CervicalCheck controversy has revealed that attempts were made to keep Vicky Phelan’s case confidential, but she rejected these moves.

The Limerick mother of two settled a High Court case for €2.5 million last week against a US laboratory for a negative CervicalCheck in 2011. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, and is now terminal due to the delay in her diagnosis.

Vicky Phelan. Image: RTE

It emerged yesterday that the cases of 208 women were the subject of a CervicalCheck programme review.  From the total of 208, 162 were not informed of a review and it was identified that 17 have died. The cause of these deaths is not yet known.

The Department of Health has today published a briefing note received by Minister Simon Harris on April 16th 2018. The note detailed Ms Phelan’s case three days before the High Court action.

The note advised Minister Harris to expect that ‘publicity around the case and/or settlement is likely.’

It also said the case did not raise concerns for patient safety: “The National Screening Service and Jerome Coffey, Head of the National Cancer Control Programme, have advised the Department in writing that they do not consider this to be a patient safety incident but rather a reflection of the known limitations of the current screening test.”

The memo said CervicalCheck audits were used for training and education purposes only up to 2014. The following year, it was decided by the HSE that information on audits would be sent to treating clinicians to discuss with patients ‘as appropriate.’

Minister Harris was advised on a public statement to make if the case came to light. The suggested phrase was: “I acknowledge the severe distress that this issue has caused to the patient involved, and to her family.”

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Dail Eireann today that every woman who has had a diagnosis of cervical cancer has been informed by the HSE.

Minister Harris has written to HIQA to request a statutory investigation into the CervicalCheck screening programme arising from the issues highlighted by Ms Phelan. A redress scheme is to be discussed to avoid any more women affected by the errors having to bring a case to court.

Read the full memo here: