Public Health England error meant women missed crucial breast cancer screenings

Public Health England error meant women missed crucial breast cancer screenings

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.

The health secretary will announce a major inquiry into the programme, run by Public Health England, the Guardian understands.

"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".

Some women are diagnosed after routine breast screening by the NHS, which begins at age 50, while other people are diagnosed simply after spotting unusual symptoms and visiting their GP.

"This was to ensure a plan could be put in place that ensured any remedies did not overwhelm the existing screening programme and was able to offer proper support for affected patients", Hunt said.

"Although women do not automatically get screening invitations after they are 70, they are encouraged to continue to attend every three years and can contact their local breast screening unit to make an appointment".

All women who were not sent an invitation for their final screening will be given the opportunity to have a new appointment.

Trixie Gough with husband Brian, who said he felt sick at the news over breast cancer screening errors. The malfunction was not fixed until January of this year and has affected women ages 68-71.

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"The Welsh administration doesn't believe that this problem has affected them, even though they were using the same IT system that we were using in England, but that is their view".

Women from 65 screening centres across England were randomly selected for the trial, with half of those in the older group invited to be screened beyond their 70th birthday, and the other half unscreened.

Gina Long MBE says the failure is "catastrophic".

In his speech to the House of Commons, Hunt apologized "wholeheartedly", acknowledging that the screening program had "not been almost good enough".

The Health Secretary said: "Irrespective of when the incident started, the fact is that for many years oversight of our screening programme has not been good enough".

And Professor Helen StokesLampard of the Royal College of Global Positioning System said: "We are shocked to learn hundreds of thousands of women in England missed out on their breast screening".

All those under 75 will be offered a catch-up screening and women who wish to be screened will be invited in the next six months, but this is likely to be sooner, Hunt confirmed.

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