TORY Health Secretary Hunt yesterday apologised ‘wholeheartedly and unreservedly for the suffering caused’ when he admitted that up to 270 women may have had their ‘lives shortened’ while he has been Health Secretary, after the NHS failed to invite them to breast screenings.
Hunt said the government will order an independent review into NHS breast cancer screening after hundreds of thousands of women were not invited for screening. Some of the women have since developed cancer.
Making a statement to the House of Commons, Health Secretary Hunt said there could be between 135 and 270 women who ‘had their lives shortened as a result’. ‘There are likely to be some people in this group who would have been alive today if the failure had not happened,’ he admitted.
The next of kin of those who missed a scan and subsequently died of breast cancer will be contacted. Advice, including on whether compensation is available, and an apology will be offered.
Hunt admitted that the existence of a ‘potential issue’ was brought to the Department for Health and Social Care by Public Health England four months ago, in January, but he claimed that their advice was that the risk to life was limited.
Around 450,000 women in England were not invited to screenings. Of these, 150,000 have died since and the remaining 300,000 are aged in their 70s. Women in England between the ages of 50 and 70 are currently automatically invited for breast cancer screening every three years. They should receive their final invitation between their 68th and 71st birthday.
Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: ‘Hundreds of thousands of women across England have been failed by this appalling error and some have had their lives shortened as a result. ‘It is shocking that almost a decade has passed before this mistake was discovered.
‘Women affected and their loved ones will be left reeling, both scared and confused. ‘The number one priority now must be to ensure that they get all the support and information they need.’
Hunt, launched a war on NHS junior doctors three years ago accusing them of putting patients at risk. However, yesterday while admitting ministerial responsibility, he did not offer his resignation, and neither did Labour demand it.