Serious failure in English breast cancer screening may have shortened lives: minister

Women should be tested for breast cancer at age 30 experts say

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons London on reports that thousands of women were not invited for breast cancer screening due to an administrative error.

United Kingdom health secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised for the administrative error which meant 450,000 women, aged between 68 and 71, never received their final tests.

And it's now thought that up to 270 women may have gone on to develop the disease.

NHS England will be expanding the capacity of screening services to enable all women affected to be screened within six months, though ideally as early as possible.

PHE escalated it to ministers in March following an urgent review with the Government told the error should "not be made public to ensure existing screening services were not overwhelmed".

Dr Jenny Harries, PHE deputy medical director said: "A complex IT problem with the breast screening invitation system has led to some women not being invited for their final screen between their 68th and 71st birthdays".

"At this stage it is unclear whether any delay in diagnosis would have resulted in any avoidable harm or death and that is one of the reasons why I am ordering an independent review to establish this clinical impact".

They should receive automatic letters from their Global Positioning System to attend the screenings, but it is understood computer errors may have meant women did not receive the invitations.

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"We know this may leave many women with questions about breast screening".

Mr Hunt said all women affected would be contacted by letter by the end of May and those under 72 would receive an appointment for a catch-up mammogram.

Hunt said the IT error was discovered because of an upgrade to the breast screening invitation IT system and said his department was first alerted by PHE to the problem in January. The fault has now been identified and fixed, and women who did not receive their final routine invitation are being contacted and offered the opportunity to have a catch up screen.

He called for Hunt to ensure that the NHS will have the staff it needs to carry out the additional work. An IT error is believed to be the root of the problem. Compensation may be offered to families where the missed scan is found to be the cause of death.

"I am glad the truth has come out, and I just hope that people take more notice of these glitches", he said.

Jeremy Hunt "apologised wholeheartedly" for the "eight-year oversight", says the i.

'We must also recognise that there may be some who receive a letter having had a recent terminal diagnosis. "We also need to get to the bottom of precisely how many people were affected, why it actually happened and most important how we can prevent it ever happening again".

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