Calls for public inquiry after thousands of women's smear tests are reviewed

There have been calls for a public inquiry and for all Northern Ireland health trusts to re-examine the smear tests of thousands of women after cases were mis-read in two areas

On Monday, County Armagh mum Erin Harbinson revealed she had three smear tests misread over a 10-year period.

Erin now has advanced-stage cervical cancer.

Many other women are still waiting to find out if their tests were also mis-read.

Erin's case is understood to have prompted an audit by the Southern Trust, leading to a major review of over 17,000 women's smear tests in the area.

Tracey Bell and Heather Thompson spoke to UTV about how they are still waiting on the outcome of their smear test review.

They're calling for a public inquiry into all five health trusts, fearing that the cases found in the Southern and Western Trust areas may not be the full picture.

Tracey Bell told UTV: "That's what it's going to take to get everything out in the open and that women then have confidence going forward.

Heather Thompson added: "This can never happen again... over 17,500 ladies over a 13-year period have been informed that they've had to have their test rechecked."

"We really want to know who is responsible," said Tracey.

The women also want to know if those who misread the smear tests are still working.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath is on Stormont's Health Committee and has backed an independent inquiry into all Health Trusts.

Ulster University Professor Deirdre Heenan said: "Women are being failed and of course, if you can't trust a screening process then women will think twice about taking their next appointment and it's hugely important that they don't, that we say to women that you must have trust and confidence in the system.

"But if this is not rectified and rectified quickly, the knock-on affects would be hard to overstate."

Both the Southern and Western Health Trusts have apologised.

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