Up to 270 women in England may have died because they did not receive invitations to a final routine breast cancer screening, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced on Wednesday.
Speaking in the Commons, the Health Secretary said 450,000 women aged around 70 had failed to get invitations since 2009. It is not known whether any delay in diagnosis resulted in avoidable death, but it is estimated that between 135 and 270 women had their lives shortened as a result, he said.
According to Mr Hunt, a computer algorithm failure was to blame, which meant women who had just turned 70 were not sent an invitation for a final scan as they should have been.
Subsequently, Mr Hunt has announced an independent review and apologised to the women and their families.
In response to the recent revelations, UKIP’s health spokesperson, Dr Julia Reid MEP, said: “First of all, as a woman at the age where I am offered breast cancer screening, I can completely understand how many of the women in my age bracket must feel right now. For those women and their families who are directly affected by this, I’m sure this news will be absolutely devastating to them and my thoughts are with them at this time.
“According to Mr Hunt, a computer algorithm failure was to blame, but what I want to know is – why was this faulty code signed off in the first place?
“I’d like to believe, that before rolling out such significant software across the country, that they would have understood the consequences of such software failing to work as intended? And thus, you’d hope that they would have had it audited by a third party, in order to catch these sorts of bugs BEFORE it went live.
“However, given the fact that the NHS suffered a huge malware attack last year – as a direct result of running un-updated software, and the fact that some trusts had still not updated their software a year after the attack, it’s easy to see how such bugs went undetected for so long.
“The information age has done wonders for the NHS and healthcare in general, but needless to say, the evidence is showing, time and time again, that there can be dire consequences if this technology is taken for granted.”
According to the reports, all women affected will now be contacted by letter by the end of May and those under 75 will be offered a routine catch-up mammogram.
Breast cancer screening is currently offered to women aged 50 to 70 in England. All women in this age group registered with a GP are invited for screening every three years.