Women’s lives may have been cut short by a major IT error which meant patients in England missed crucial breast cancer screenings, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said. Speaking in the House of Commons, he said 450,000 women aged 68-71 had failed to get invitations since 2009.
In the UK, women over the age of 50 are automatically invited for breast cancer screenings every three years as the likelihood of developing breast cancer increases with age.
Families now face the distressing possibility that loved ones who have recently died from breast cancer may have missed opportunities for early diagnosis. Women receiving breast cancer treatment, including those with a terminal diagnosis, may also receive letters informing them of missed screenings in the coming months.
The government has ordered an independent inquiry into the scandal, which Public Health England (PHE) only unearthed in January after almost a decade of errors. Hunt said between 135 and 270 women “may have had their lives shortened as a result” of the missed letters.
GPs leaders said they were “shocked” to learn of the error and said the implications for GPs would potentially be “significant”.
Health officials will contact the next of kin of women who are thought to have missed a scan and subsequently died of breast cancer, Hunt said. They will apologize and offer a process to establish whether the error led to an earlier death, and if compensation might be payable. “We recognize this will be incredibly distressing for some families,” he said.
Whilst this is an English matter, it serves as a useful reminder of the serious and lasting effects of clinical negligence. Our personal injury lawyers have many years of experience helping people deal with the challenges that can result from clinical negligence. We offer a free consultation to let you know about all of the options for getting compensation, care and rehabilitation as soon as possible.
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