Call for answers over ‘horrific’ failure of breast cancer scan service in South Tyneside

Up to 75 women may have died early following blunders in a breast screening, according to latest estimates.
Up to 75 women may have died early following blunders in a breast screening, according to latest estimates.

A demand for answers will be made to the health secretary as it emerged that South Tyneside nearly 2,000 women in South Tyneside were midded in a breast screening service error.

In South Shields 1,119 women were missed, while a further 715 from Jarrow were not contacted.

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields.

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields.

More than 12,000 in the North East have been affected by a computer failure, which meant they were not called for a final mammogram before turning 70.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, an ambassador for breast cancer, is tabling a debate in Parliament this month and wants to hear from those affected so she can take their questions to the health minister.

She also wants to know what investment is being put into the mammogram and radiography in the borough, as it has higher than average figures for the number due to retire, while there are 400 cancer nurse vacancies across the NHS.

Up to 450,000 women in England were not called and health secretary Jeremy Hunt says nationally, as many as 75 women may have died of breast cancer unnecessarily due to the error.

The Government are calling this a blunder, but for these women and their families, it’s horrific.

Emma Lewell-Buck

Women not screened after their 68th birthday will be invited for a scan.

Mrs Lewell-Buck is trying to find out of any of those who died are from South Shields and says the Government should make contact with their loved ones.

She also said the wait for a report due in November is too long and expressed concern about the lack of expert help behind a hotline set up via private firm Serco.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “It’s very important that the people affected and their families know.

“The Government are calling this a blunder, but for these women and their families, it’s horrific.

“The women affected want to deal with somebody who is a proven competent expert, and no offence to them, they are doing a job, but they are not skilled enough to deal with what must be handled delicately.

“We have got a Government which doesn’t care enough about our NHS and a health secretary who obviously wants to privatise it and this has been going on for nearly 10 years.

“It started back in 2009 and it’s taken them until last year to spot it and another year for the health secretary to talk about it publicly.

“The whole thing smacks of incompetence.”

Public Health England has apologised for the error and welcomed the independent review to ensure it cannot happen again.