Approximately 270 women may have died from breast cancer because of a IT error which left 450,000 women in England uninvited for their mammogram.
Since 2009, women aged between 68-71 have not been invited to have their screening – which they should be having every 3 years.
In a statement yesterday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt estimated between 135-270 may have ‘had their lives shortened as a result’.
‘I am advised that it is unlikely to be more than this range, and may be considerably less,’ he said.
‘Tragically there are likely to be some people in this group who would be alive today had this failure not happened.’
‘As well as apologising to families affected, we wish to offer any further advice they might find helpful including a process to establish whether a missed scan was a likely cause of death and compensation is therefore payable.’
The government has announced an independent inquiry to examine the full extent of the error.
Public Health England invites 2.5 million women between the ages of 50 and 70 to a breast cancer screening each year, and between 2016-2017 around 18,400 cancer cases were discovered.
Catching cancer early can greatly improve the chances of survival and questions are being raised as to why this error was not picked up on sooner.
‘We welcome the independent inquiry into this matter, announced today, but the priority should not be to establish blame, but to put measures in place to invite those women affected for screening, where appropriate; to ensure there are enough resources in the system to cope with any additional demand that might follow as a result; and to take steps to ensure this never happens again,’ said Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs.
The IT mistake was first revealed following an upgrade to the national screening system in January where a study, the AgeX trial, discovered that women aged around 70 years old were not receiving their final screening invitation.
‘That hundreds of thousands of women have not received the screening invitations they’ve been relying upon, at a time when they may be most at risk of breast cancer, is totally unacceptable,’ said Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, the largest breast cancer research charity in the UK.
‘It is beyond belief that this major mistake has been sustained for almost a decade and we need to know why this has been allowed to happen. We welcome the Independent Inquiry to ensure this can never be repeated.’