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MEDICAL GRADUATE APPOINTED TO CONDUCT IRISH CERVICAL CANCER INQUIRY  

10 May 2018

The Irish Government has appointed Queen’s medical graduate Dr Gabriel Scally (MB BCh BAO, 1978), to conduct a preliminary Scoping Inquiry into the cervical cancer controversy which has rocked the Republic’s health system in recent months.

Ireland has a national cervical cancer screening programme called CervicalCheck, which outsources some of its tests to US laboratories. Problems arose when a 2014 audit by CervicalCheck of almost 1,500 women found potential errors in over 200 cases as tests incorrectly gave the all-clear.

At least 162 women were not told their earlier tests indicated they required follow-up because there was no clear policy about what to do when false negatives were found. Seventeen of the 1,500 women have died, while several others have been told their cancer is terminal.

Making the announcement on Tuesday (08 May) Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “Today Cabinet has agreed to establish a Scoping Inquiry into the issues which have recently come to light in relation to the CervicalCheck Screening Programme. We need to examine the facts and get answers quickly for Irish women, while also identifying issues that may merit a further full statutory investigation.

“Dr Scally has widespread experience in undertaking reviews of this type. He had a distinguished career as a senior public health doctor and advisor with the UK Department of Health as well as the NHS, and is currently President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and a Professor of Public Health at both the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol.”

Born and brought up in Belfast Gabriel Scally studied medicine at Queen’s, specialising in general practice and subsequently public health. He was a prominent member of the Students' Union and an advocate for the development of public health services in campaigns organised by the Union of Students of Ireland.

From 1989-93 he was Chief Administrative Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for the Eastern Health and Social Services Board in Northern Ireland. During his tenure Dr Scally overseen the establishment of the Brook Advisory young people’s sexual health service in the teeth of substantial opposition.

In 1994 he was appointed as a public health director in the NHS in England and co-chaired the UK government's advisory committee on sexual health. He has co-authored the standard textbook on public health in the UK.

In 2012, Dr Scally resigned from Department of Health over his concern at the health policies of the then coalition government.

Currently a visiting Professor of Public Health at UWE and the University of Bristol, Dr Scally’s most recent academic role was as Director the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Healthy Urban Environments at the UWE. He currently jointly leads a Wellcome Trust funded research project into the importance attached to health considerations in the planning of urban settlements.

Dr Scally is expected to report back to the Irish Minister for Health by the end of June.

Media inquiries to the Press Office, Department of Health, Hawkins House, Hawkins St, Dublin 2, D02 VW90, telephone: 00 353 (0)1 635 4477.

Photo credit (inset): Dr Gabriel Scally (Twitter)

 

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