Overhaul on cancer screening for women after huge blunder leads to missing test results

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It has been reported that over 45,000 letters containing information about cervical cancer tests – due to go out to women across the UK – have not been sent. The error is supposed to have happened between January and June of this year and has led to NHS bosses reconsidering the way in which screening programmes are carried out.

The blunder has put thousands of women at risk as around 4,500 of the letters contained test results. Unfortunately, between 150 – 200 letters actually contained abnormal results leaving these patients at very high risk of delayed treatment.

The screening system has been outsourced to Capita along with many other NHS services which MPs have previously branded as a “shambles”. Capita have blamed the costly mistake on a “system error” but has not elaborated on it any further. Surprisingly the British Medical Association (BMA) had already warned about the serious risks of Capita’s plans to overhaul the service by writing to the NHS England chief executive, citing key failures in back office functions that have already been made.

Cervical Screenings and their importance

The NHS has ran a screening programme for women over the age of 25 since the 1980s and all women over this age are encouraged to have a screening either every 3 years (for women between 25-49) or 5 years (for women 50-64). Despite what some people think, the screening is not a test for cancer but just to check for abnormal changes that can occur. According to the NHS statistics, around 1 in 20 women show some degree of abnormal changes of the cells in the cervix; however, most of these changes do not lead to cervical cancer.

There are about 3,000 diagnosed cases of cervical cancer every year in the UK. Although this may seem high, the number of cases has actually decreased by around 7% a year since the screening programme was introduced.

Clear case of Medical Negligence

The recent errors caused by outsourcing the administration of cervical screenings to a private company may have led to positive cervical diagnoses that could have been treated far earlier had the women received their letters containing results. This constitutes a clear breach of care and duty and would fall under the category of “Lost Medical and Missing Test Results”.

This is an area of medical negligence we are all too familiar with at The Medical Negligence Experts, and we speak to thousands of people every year who have suffered due to poor treatment by a health professional or organisation. On this occasion it is clear that compensation will most likely be available to women who have developed cervical cancer and have had a delayed diagnosis due to the lack of information they received.

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