Women wait six months after cancer test failures

Sandra Little Brown

UP TO 270 women may have died of breast cancer because of a computer glitch that went unnoticed for nearly a decade, the health secretary admitted to MPs yesterday.

Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: "Hundreds of thousands of women across England have been failed by this appalling error and some have had their lives shortened as a result".

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that up to 270 lives may have been cut short because of the mistake.

It's a "colossal system failure", she said.

He said: "I was gobsmacked and knew straight away Trix was one of the people never given a scan".

"It just hit me and I thought good God", the 77-year-old from Norfolk said.

She had surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but the cancer returned after two years and she died on December 28 2015.

He believes she could have lived longer if the disease had been spotted earlier.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy medical director of Public Health England, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There are a number of organisations involved in this and I think we are all - Public Health England, the NHS, NHS Digital, the Department of Health - devastated by this".

He added: "Some local services have not invited everyone for a final screen in the three years before their 71st birthday".

Hunt apologised "wholehearted and unreservedly" to the women and their families and announced an independent review to investigate the scandal, but the medical profession has warned the implication for Global Positioning System will potentially be "significant".

As a result, up to 309,000 women aged between 70 and 79 will be offered the opportunity for a catch-up NHS breast screening test this year.

"For them and others it is incredibly upsetting to know that you did not receive an invitation for screening at the correct time and totally devastating to hear you may have lost or be about to lose a loved one because of administrative incompetence".

"Financial hardship plays a role in delays, discontinuation and omission of treatment, and thus may correlate with racial disparities in breast cancer death", said UNC Lineberger's Stephanie Wheeler, the study's lead author and an associate professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Staff at Queen Alexandra Hospital's breast services were delighted to welcome the WI from Portchester last week who delivered the bras.

"I look back now and think everything that happened since could possibly have been avoided, or lessened the whole journey I went on, the traumatic journey of all the treatment may never have had to happen".

Screening invitations were not sent out to approximately 450,000 women aged 68 and over between 2009 and the beginning of 2018.

The "algorithm failure" dated back to 2009 but was only discovered this year.

He said: "This terrible blunder may have resulted in tragic consequences for so many families and I have contacted the Morecambe Bay trust to find out whether any local women have been affected".

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