Women's deaths follow cancer screening error

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Nine women omitted from a cervical cancer screening programme have died from the disease and two more have the cancer, health officials disclosed yesterday.

Nine women omitted from a cervical cancer screening programme have died from the disease and two more have the cancer, health officials disclosed yesterday.

The women are among more than 19,000 who were excluded from the screening programme more than five years ago and, as a result of an administrative blunder, not reinstated.

The women had been repeatedly invited for screening and, when they did not take up the offers, were struck from the database used by three Scottish health boards to record the results of screening and to recall women for further tests

When government policy changed in 1995 and screening programmes were ordered to reinstate women who had refused tests, Tayside, Fife and Forth Valley health boards failed to act for two years. An investigation was launched together with a huge operation to contact the 19,000 women.

Yesterday health officials said more than 14,000 had been traced but only 713 had come forward for tests. Of these, 23 required further treatment.

A spokesman for the health boards said the women who had died had refused at least three invitationsfor screening and their deaths had occurred prior to the Government changing the guidelines in 1995. It was not possible to attribute the deaths and new cases to the suspension of the women, he said.

The error came to light last year following the death of a woman who had been struck from the programme who developed cervical cancer. She had been invited on at least seven occasions to have screening.

The investigation into the screening programme identified a breakdown in communications as the cause of its failure to reinstate the 19,000 at risk. It was suggested staff operating the system, based in Dundee, had been more concerned with processing salaries than getting women who had refused treatment back into the system.

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