Women win screening test case

THREE WOMEN have won a landmark High Court case against the hospital that wrongly diagnosed their cervical smears and failed to warn them that they had cancer.

In the first case to come to court because of Britain's biggest cervical smear screening scandal, Mr Justice Peppitt ruled yesterday afternoon that the women were victims of medical negligence at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. Eight women are believed to have died and at least 30 women had to have hysterectomies after failures at the hospital.

But East Kent Health Authority has denied negligence on behalf of the hospital in a number of cases.

Helen Palmer, 35, of Whitstable, Sandra Penney, 35, of Ramsgate, and Lesley Cannon, 38, from the Isle of Sheppey all claimed that hospital screeners misread their smear tests, and as a result they all contracted adenocarcinoma, a less common form of cervical cancer. All three have had hysterectomies to remove the cancer.

The dispute in the 10-day court case centred on whether cyto-screeners, the laboratory technicians that examine slides, should have been able to spot signs of pre-cancerous material when the smears were taken between 1990 and 1992.

Mr Justice Peppitt, sitting at Canterbury County Court, said: "The screeners had a clear duty of care to their patients to refer any borderline slides to a senior analyst or even a pathologist for checking." This they had failed to do.

Of Mrs Penney's case, the judge said, "In my judgement no competent cyto- screener should have dismissed the possibility that the cells might have been pre-cancerous."

He added that a reasonably competent cyto-screener should have classified the smear as borderline even if it had caused Mrs Penney to suffer short- term distress and possibly another smear test.

In the case of Mrs Palmer, he asked "whether a reasonably competent screener would have been justified" in not spotting the cells were abnormal. He said the screener of Mrs Palmer's second smear test in March 1990 was in breach of his duty of care to Mrs Palmer by reporting it as negative.

The three women will now apply to the court for compensation. The hospital trust has already admitted that the screening department was poorly run, underfunded, poorly managed and the screeners inadequately trained. It has settled 47 cases at a cost of more than pounds 1m but has refused in a number of others to pay compensation.

The judgment against the hospital will have national implications. The East Kent Health Authority had argued that its screeners were comparable with screeners elsewhere at the time. The women's lawyers had argued these standards were not high enough. The women's solicitor, Sarah Harman, said she hoped the ruling would set a benchmark for the standards women could expect from the cervical screening programme.

She said: "I think there are some very worrying aspects that have been heard in evidence from experts and very different views. There are different standards in different laboratories throughout the country and I think some action needs to be taken." She said it was "dreadful" the three women should have suffered in the way they had done.

The judge praised the overall efficiency of the national screening programme and stressed that women should continue to use it.

"This is a case of great concern to women but nothing I have heard justifies worry as this occurred a number of years ago and these screenings represent a fraction of the thousands taken each year. It should also not discourage cyto-screeners, a body of devoted and conscientious men and women who do difficult jobs under testing circumstances," he added.

"Rather it should emphasise they should not assume the agonising responsibility of judging between cancerous and benign cells.

Outside the court Lesley Cannon said: "I'm going to sue, I want compensation, I don't know how much, just loads of money to pay for a brilliant holiday. This verdict means hospitals are going to have to be a lot stricter ... if someone gets a negative result, they should now be able to say it is truly negative."

The director of the NHS trust, Tim Smith, said: "It is too early to say whether we shall appeal."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect