Essex patients urged to use voice to expose injustices following breast screening error

Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex. Picture: HEALTHWATCH ESSEX

Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex. Picture: HEALTHWATCH ESSEX - Credit: HEALTHWATCH ESSEX

An Essex health chief is urging people in the county to be vocal when they have concerns about care, in the wake of the breast screening programme scandal.

This week it was announced 450,000 women aged 68 to 71 had not been invited to their final routine screening due to a computer glitch dating back to 2009. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said up to 270 women may have had their lives cut short as a result of the blunder.

It comes after thousands of smear test samples had to be rescreened earlier this year due to problems at a Basildon lab.

Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex, said the organisation, which represents health and social care users, “interestingly” received no complaints about either incident.

He added: “Of course, we recognise that, in some instances, it may have been impossible for people to know what service they should have received or that an error had been made but, very often, we find that people don’t speak up even when they have a concern.

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“There is a real human cost when we see systems fail within health and social care so, alongside the system changes that must take place to prevent this, I also want to encourage people to speak up if they have concerns.

“We have an information and signposting telephone service, which can help members of the public in Essex navigate any service within health and social care in Essex. Where we identify trends in the type of calls we take, we are able to highlight a potential issue to the relevant authorities, so that they can make crucial checks. It is also possible to provide feedback on individual services via our Trip-Advisor style feedback centre.

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“Hearing the patient’s voice more prominently within health and social care is absolutely crucial in providing a level of transparency that can prevent serious harm from lying undetected for any length of time.”

Healthwatch Essex has written to the General Medical Council, the Care Quality Commission and NHS England to find out how many women in the county had been affected by the issue.

An independent review has been launched into the error in the breast screening programme, which is run by Public Health England and offers women between 50 and 70 a test every three years.

Were you affected by the breast screening scandal? Tell us your story.

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