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Shropshire lawyer calls for swift action over breast screening scandal

Health | Published:

A leading Shropshire lawyer has called on the government and the NHS to act swiftly to ensure more women are not put at risk in the current breast screening scandal.

Kay Kelly, head of clinical negligence at Lanyon Bowdler

An IT error going back nine years has identified about 450,000 missed breast screenings and that up to 270 of the women screened may have died as a result of the national computer error.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised for the error and ordered an independent inquiry, which aims to find out exactly how many women have been affected.

Kay Kelly, head of clinical negligence at Lanyon Bowdler – which has branches in Shrewsbury, Telford, Ludlow and Oswestry, said: “It seems incredible that these women have not been invited to attend such a potentially important screening appointment, even more so because it is the result of an appalling administrative error which has gone on for so long.

“Jeremy Hunt has said his department will be contacting the families of women who have died, potentially because of a missed screening, and whether this resulted in a delay in diagnosis which may have ultimately led to a shortening of life expectancy.

“Our thoughts are with those families at this time in these tragic circumstances and I would urge the government and the NHS to progress and finalise this inquiry as soon as possible.

“There is a priority for the NHS to ensure measures are put in place to ensure eligible women, who should have received an automatic screening invite but didn’t because of the error, are now invited for breast screening without further delay.

“It is vital the NHS makes sure it has robust systems in place, particularly in light of the ever-increasing demand on its resources and with continuous developments in IT and technology, to make sure that its administrative systems are designed and used to deliver safe and efficient healthcare to patients and service users.

“I hope news of this scandal will encourage heightened scrutiny and a thorough review in other areas of the healthcare system.

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“Women who may have missed a screening should be receiving a letter towards the end of the month.

“The advice to women who are at all concerned is that they should visit the NHS Choices website or contact their local units to book an appointment.

“This recommendation particularly applies if you suspect you may have been affected by this issue or if you are over 50 and have not had a mammogram in the last three years and would like to have one.

“I think it is reassuring to remember many breast cancers are now identified by women themselves because of increased awareness and the importance of self-examination. It is also important to mention that breast cancer can affect men as well.”

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The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital, has put in place extra capacity for women to have catch-up breast screening sessions.

It is offering the catch-up sessions to women in Shropshire, aged between 70 and 79, who did not receive their invitations.

The official helpline for those who think they may be affected is 0800 169 2692.

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