Jeremy Hunt addresses breast cancer screening failure
Breast cancer screening letters which were not sent out due to a technological failure may have extended the lives of a number of women, it has been revealed.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt, 51, told the House of Commons today that "a serious failure" had taken place.
Hunt told those present today that up to 270 women may have had their lives ‘shortened’ by the failure.
He said: “Earlier this year PHE (Public Health England) analysis of trial data from the service found that there was a computer algorithm failure dating back to 2009.
“The latest estimates I have received from PHE is that as a result of this between 2009 and the start of 2018 an estimated 450,000 women aged between 68 and 71 were not invited to their final breast screening.”
Breast cancer screening scandal: NHS UK scandals means women’s lives ‘shortened’
The Health Secretary told the Commons that up to 270 some women “would have been alive today” if the error had not occurred.
However, he did point out that the number may be far lower than this, and has been calculated using statistics and not patient data.
Hunt added: “At this stage it is unclear whether any delay in diagnosis will have resulted in any avoidable harm or death and that is one of the reasons I am ordering an independent review to established the clinical impact.
“Our current best estimate, which comes with caveats as it’s based on statistical modelling rather than patient reviews and because there is currently no clinical consensus about the benefits of screening for this age group, is that there may be 135 and 270 women who have had their lives shortened as a result.
“I’m advised that it is unlikely to be more than this and may be considerably less, however, tragically there are likely to be some people in this group who would have been alive today if the failure had not happened.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women; and one in eight women in the UK will develop the disease during their lifetime.
Breast cancer screening scandal: NHS UK scandals means women’s lives ‘shortend’
The next of kin of those how may have missed a scan and later died of breast cancer will be contacted by the government.
This will advise the loved ones of the deceased on whether they may receive compensation, and also offer an apology.
Mr Hunt was made aware of the issue in March by PHE, and was advised not to make the facts public until a plan to remedy the situation was put in black.
The 309,000 women who are still alive and have not received their final letter will be contact by the government and 65,000 letters will be send this week.
At the moment the NHS offers breast screening to two million people every year.
Breast cancer: Up to 270 women have had their lives ‘shortened’ Jeremy Hunt revealed
Breast cancer: At the moment the NHS offers breast screening to 2 million people every year
The breast screening programme invites women between the ages of 50 and 70 to receive a screening every three years up to their 71st birthday.
According to Cancer Research UK, screening involves testing apparently healthy people for signs that could show that a cancer is developing.
Breast screening uses a test called mammography which involves taking x-rays of the breasts. Screening can help to find breast cancers early, when they are too small to see or feel. These tiny breast cancers are usually easier to treat than larger ones.
Overall, the breast screening programme finds cancer in about 8 out of every 1,000 women having screening.
Women should receive letters from their GPs telling them to attend an X-ray test called a mammogram, in a programme run by Public Health England.