Hospital smear tests blunder

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The Independent Online
GLENDA COOPER

A member of staff has been suspended from a Norfolk hospital in the wake of a warning to thousands of women that their cervical smear tests may have been wrongly interpreted.

The James Paget Hospital in Gorleston is rechecking 8,200 smear tests - some as far back as 1993. The slides have been sent for retesting.

There were first doubts about the accuracy of the screening analyst's work back as far as February but health chiefs said on Wednesday they only became certain that there was a problem in the last few days. David Ellis, the hospital's medical officer, described the analyst as someone with more than 10 years' experience "who had been performing under par".

The patients, mainly from 29 GP practices in the Yarmouth and Waveney areas, were tested from the beginning of 1993, but women tested this year are not affected. The new test results will be back by 11 July and anyone who needs further treatment will be contacted by 18 July, the hospital said. A help-line (01493 452269) has set up.

Dr John Rees, director of public health at Norfolk Health Authority, said: "We know this will be extremely worrying for many women living in the area and for this reason everything is being done to re-check the slides as soon as possible. However, we want to reassure women that the risks are very low. The vast majority of smear tests are normal and while cervical cancer is a very serious disease, in the vast majority of cases it can be treated and it takes many years to develop."

In Sheffield, health chiefs have apologised to parents after 30 children were given injections of sterile water instead of a TB vaccine. Nurses carried out the routine jab on 57 children at Dore Junior School but the mistake was only discovered when a check showed that only half the vaccine had been used. The team had accidentally filled half the syringes with water, used to clean them. The injections will be done again.

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