On 29th January 2020, the Department of Health circulated an update on progress to date in respect of the arrangements for the CervicalCheck Tribunal.
The CervicalCheck Tribunal is being established to provide an alternative mechanism for processing claims arising out of the failures of the CervicalCheck Scheme and allowing women and families affected to seek redress outside of the more adversarial courts system. The Tribunal is expected to be in place by March 2020 and will be accommodated in the Infinity Building in Smithfield, Dublin 7. Ms Justice Mary Irvine of the Supreme Court will be appointed Chair of the Tribunal, with Mr Justice Michael Peart and Mr Justice Brian McGovern expected to be appointed as ordinary members of the Tribunal.
Those eligible for the Tribunal include:
- women identified as part of the original CervicalCheck internal audit as having cytology review findings that were discordant with those of the original cytology examination;
- women whose cytology slides were re-examined as part of the retrospective CervicalCheck audit (the RCOG review) and whose cytology review findings were discordant with those of the original cytology examination; and
- women whose slides were sought for the RCOG review but were not available for reasons beyond their control.
Where a woman who would have been eligible to apply to the Tribunal but has passed away, their dependants will be eligible to make a claim to the Tribunal in her place. Other categories of women affected, such as those with concordant cytology but an issue with colposcopy, are not currently eligible; however, the Oireachtas has indicated that the eligibility criteria will be reviewed once the Tribunal has been up and running for a time.
The CervicalCheck Tribunal Act 2019, the backing legislation establishing the Tribunal, provides that hearings will be held in private. However, if a claimant requests that their claim be heard in public and the Tribunal agrees, their hearing or part thereof may be heard in public. The Department of Health has also confirmed that they are meeting with officials in the Department of Justice to establish whether legal aid may be made available to persons eligible for the Tribunal.
The CervicalCheck Tribunal Act also provides for Restoration of Trust meetings in order to facilitate discussion and provide information to women affected. This process is independent from the Tribunal and is in the early stages of its development, but it is envisaged that consultations on the process will be made with stakeholders in the process, including patient representatives.
Once the documentation for the Tribunal is complete it will be published on the Tribunal website www.cervicalchecktribunal.ie. This website is expected to be up and running by mid-February 2020 and will provide information about the following:
- the Tribunal, including opening hours and when the Tribunal sits;
- about the process of making a claim to the Tribunal,
- Tribunal Practices and Procedures, including rules and forms;
- FAQs; and
- Information about Restoration of Trust Meetings.
About the author, Avril Scally, Partner and Head of Clinical Negligence