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Thousands of women put at risk by cervical cancer screening errors

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More than 40,000 women in England may have missed vital information about cervical cancer screenings after important letters were not sent out due to a series of errors.

The letters should have been sent out to women inviting them to a cervical cancer screening or delivering results of a screening. Around 4,000 of the letters contained test results, of which between 150 and 200 were abnormal, according to reporting by the BBC.

The errors occurred between January and June this year, with the service having been provided by Capita on behalf of NHS England.

This fresh scandal comes just months after it was revealed that 450,000 women missed out on being invited for breast cancer screenings due to a computer glitch dating back to at least 2009. The problem was not identified until early 2018 and it is thought as many as 270 women may have died following missed screenings.

Everyone who did not receive a letter in relation to a cervical cancer screening should now have been written to and the BBC reports that 10,000 of those contacted have now been tested.

Capita have apologised to the NHS and the women affected, they suggested that “The risk to women of this incident is low and there is no current evidence of harm”. The company claims that:

“We have investigated the precise circumstances around this incident, and it is clear that the correct process for uploading, organising and checking datafiles was not properly followed. When the problem was discovered, it was not immediately escalated to senior leadership, or NHS England, by the individuals responsible.”

Capita have confirmed that they are investigating their handling of the matter and taking “appropriate disciplinary action” and that the senior executive responsible for the contract has left the company.

Should you be worried about missing a cervical cancer screening?

There are over 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer in the UK each year, with more than 850 deaths from the disease in a typical year, according to figures from Cancer Research UK. However, Cancer Research also estimate that virtually all (99.8%) of cervical cancer cases are preventable if the right action is taken promptly. This shows just how vital regular testing and swift follow-up action on abnormal results can be.

If errors by NHS staff or outsourced workers result in a woman missing a cervical cancer screening appointment or not being informed of abnormal test results, the result can be deadly. Where the opportunity to identify and treat cervical cancer early is missed, treatment can be much more challenging with a much higher risk of death.

Women aged 25-49 should have a cervical cancer screening every 3 years, while those aged 50-64 should have a screening every 5 years. If you are within one of those age groups and have not had a screening in the relevant time period, you should contact your GP and make arrangements to be screened as soon as possible.

Where cervical cancer has been diagnosed late or misdiagnosed due to negligent errors by medical staff or support workers, you may have grounds to claim compensation if the late diagnosis or misdiagnosis has resulted in a worse outcome for your health or the health of a loved one.

Claiming compensation for cervical cancer negligence

We know how confusing and difficult dealing with the aftermath of negligent treatment of cancer can be. Our team offer empathetic, clear and practical support to help you pursue compensation under even the most challenging circumstances.

Our aim is to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision about pursuing a claim, then make the claims process as simple as possible, while giving you the best chance of securing appropriate compensation.

Our medical negligence solicitors regularly help people to claim compensation for negligent cancer treatment. We are Tier 1 ranked by the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for our medical negligence expertise, reflecting our exceptional skills in handling these often complex and contentious claims.

For a free, confidential consultation with a member of our team, please get in touch.