Hundreds of thousands of women face an “agonising wait” of up to six months to be checked for breast cancerwrites Chris Smyth in the Times of London,
after an IT blunder which meant they were not called for screening led to the deaths of as many as 270 patients.“Beyond belief” is another way of saying Unexpected.
NHS bosses were trying last night to contact 309,000 women who were not invited to breast cancer checks because of computer failures dating back almost a decade.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, apologised for women’s lives being cut short by “administrative incompetence”, but said that some women affected would have to wait until the end of October for catch-up checks to avoid disrupting routine screening for those aged between 50 and 70.
Campaigners demanded that the NHS hire hundreds of extra staff or send women abroad to get the checks done. Labour said that the NHS should be given extra resources to carry out the checks, but the party’s response was tempered by the knowledge that it had been in power when the troubles began.
Public Health England, which runs the screening programme, is also facing questions. Mr Hunt told the Commons: “For many years oversight of [the] programme has not been good enough.”
… Mr Hunt promised to write by the end of the month to all women affected, saying: “There may be some who receive a letter having had a recent terminal diagnosis. For them and others it is incredibly upsetting to know that you did not receive an invitation for screening at the correct time and totally devastating to hear you may have lost or be about to lose a loved one because of administrative incompetence.”
The NHS is promising to pay for staff overtime and to use the private sector to offer all women who missed out an appointment by the end of October.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now, said it was “beyond belief” that the problem was undetected for so long.