Shock and disappointment over Suffolk and Essex breast screening blunder figures

Colchester MP Will Quince Picture: WILL QUINCE

Colchester MP Will Quince Picture: WILL QUINCE - Credit: Archant

The breast cancer screening blunder that shortened the lives of up to 75 women has been labelled a “terrible oversight” by Colchester’s MP.

Campaigner Gina Long MBE Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Campaigner Gina Long MBE Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

Will Quince made the comments after it emerged almost 7,500 alive women from Suffolk and north Essex, including 504 in his constituency, had been affected by failures in the programme.

They were among 174,000 women aged 68 to 71 nationwide who were not invited to their final routine breast screening between 2009 and May 2018 due to a computer glitch. Of those affected, up to 130,000 are still alive.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the updated figures this week and said up to 75 women may have died prematurely as a result of the error.

Mr Quince said: “I was hugely concerned to hear the recent news that hundreds of women in Colchester were mistakenly not invited to their final regular mammogram between 2009 and 2018. This was a terrible oversight, and I offer my deepest sympathy to those women affected.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey Picture: RUTH LEACH

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey Picture: RUTH LEACH - Credit: Ruth Leach

Every woman affected who is registered with a GP has been offered a catch-up appointment.

Mr Quince said the Government was also setting up a case review process through which women impacted may be able to receive compensation.

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Fornham St Martin based Gina Long MBE, who is a founding member of the Suffolk Breast Cancer Now Group, said one life shortened by this mistake was too many.

She added: “In this day and age, it is shocking that this has been allowed to happen. Our NHS is already under enormous pressure, the 68,000 ‘imperative extra appointments’ can only add to the pressure.

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

“I hope there is comprehensive support helping the teams giving the much needed appointments, along with a robust support system in place for all those who have sadly been affected as this has undoubtedly been life-changing for them.”

Suffolk Coastal was the hardest hit constituency in the county, with 840 women affected.

MP Therese Coffey said: “Clearly, it is disappointing that many women have not been alerted but I am confident that this incident will highlight to women who may be affected to get their appointment as quickly as possible.”

Healthwatch Essex is using this case to highlight the importance of patients speaking out about any concerns they have around health or social care.

Chief executive Dr David Sollis said: “The NHS has assured us that a robust plan has been put in place to reassure patients affected and to ensure that they are offered screenings as a matter of priority which, as far as we are aware, is addressing the issue as best it can, retrospectively. Of course, there will be people for whom it is sadly simply too late.

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

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