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Fears for women after IT error leads to missed final breast cancer checks

Up to 75 women may have died early following blunders in a breast screening, according to latest estimates.
Up to 75 women may have died early following blunders in a breast screening, according to latest estimates.

A Wearside MP has urged the Government to make sure a computer failure which left more than 12,000 women across the North East unchecked for the signs of breast cancer will never happen again.

The error meant women were not called for a final mammogram before they turned 70, with all those not been screened after their 68th birthday to now be offered a scan.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott.

In Sunderland, the Central constituency saw 135 women affected, in Washington and Sunderland West the figure was 110, while in Houghton and Sunderland South, the number was 128.

In Easington the number was 274.

A total of 174,000 have been affected across England, with 75 women estimated to have died as of breast cancer unnecessarily because of the system error.

Sunderland Central MP, Julie Elliott said: “New figures showing that over 100 women in my constituency were not called for routine breast cancer screening appointments are shocking.

The Government needs to urgently review this error, and ensure that those who have missed screenings are invited for a scan.

Julie Elliott

“It’s not right that women have missed out on this essential service due to a computer error and I’m really concerned women may have died of breast cancer unnecessarily as a result.

“The Government needs to urgently review this error, and ensure that those who have missed screenings are invited for a scan.”

Sharon Hodgson, who represents Washington and Sunderland West, added: “While we now know that fewer women were affected than first thought, it is unacceptable that false information was issued to the public, no doubt causing yet further widespread concern.

I now believe that the Department for Health should expand the capacity of the screening programme, and commit to employing more staff in order to ensure that all women are seen in a timely manner.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson.

“This is a mistake that must never happen again.

“If anyone in my constituency has concerns then I would urge them to get in touch with me so that I can make the necessary representations.”

Grahame Morris MP, who is Easington MP and vice chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Radiography, said: “The Government have been slow to react and I support calls by charities like Breast Cancer Now calling for more specialist staff in radiology and mammography so that all women who need appointments can get them as a matter of urgency.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: “Our priority throughout has been the wellbeing of affected women and giving them the support they need.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington.

“I would like to reiterate our heartfelt and unreserved apology that this has happened.

“We welcome the terms of reference of the independent review and we will work fully with them to ensure it cannot happen again.”

It was initially feared 270 women could have died after they were not given the check, but that has since been revised to the lower level.

As a result of the IT issue, women aged between 68 and 71 were not invited to their final breast screening between 2009 and May this year.