Early in May 2018 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that an estimated 450,000 women in England aged between 68 and 71 (now aged 70-79) had failed to be recalled for their final breast cancer screening due to an IT error.
The error occurred in 2009 but was only picked up in January 2018 following a review of services by Public Health England. Shockingly, it is estimated that up to 270 women may have died as a result of the mistake. Of the 450,000 that were not recalled, 309,000 women are estimated to still be alive but some may now be facing dealing with a cancer more serious than it needed to be.
Women are supposed to be invited for a mammogram every three years between the age of 50 and 70 to spot the early signs of breast cancer. A mammogram is type of x-ray that detects subtle changes in breast tissue long before a lump may be noticeable by a woman or even her doctor. The NHS Breast Screening Programme was set up in the late 1980s and has been part of the success in increasing survival rates of breast cancer from 40% to 78% in the last 40 years.
Early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer can dramatically increase a women’s prognosis. It can also mean that treatment may be much less invasive. If caught early enough, breast cancer can be treated without a mastectomy (breast removal) or chemotherapy.
Louise Tyler, Partner and Head of the Clinical Negligence team at Wilson Browne Solicitors said “We know how important early diagnosis of cancer is and it is a tragedy that women across the country will have suffered or had their lives cut short as a result of this.” Louise recently took part in the Moon Walk London 2018 for Walk the Walk charity to raise money for vital breast cancer causes.
It is anticipated that the government and NHS will face a large number of claims from women affected and their families. By the end of May 2018, the NHS should have written to all women affected by the failure.
If you have received a letter or you are concerned that you may have been among the women affected and are considering legal action you can contact us on 0800 088 6004 and a member of the team will contact you to discuss your situation.