The Sunday Telegraph has revealed that a number of NHS cancer screening results have come under review when it has emerged that the rate of error was exceptionally high. At the moment the lab in Essex has reviewed 900 of its total cases and found that 17 women were incorrectly told they were cancer free when they did, in fact, have cancer.
The lab has been responsible for screening a total of 60,000 women and if the rate of error remains the same then over 1000 women may have been erroneously told they were free of cancer. The implications for delayed treatment, survival rates, and just sheer psychological trauma are hard to fathom.
So far the investigation is limited to 2,500 women but 900 tests in and the results are already shocking. At the moment it is looking very likely that all 60,000 test results may have to be reviewed.
Speaking to the press an NHS spokesmen said,
“We are looking at 2,500 samples because that is the right robust sample size to give us an indication if we have to do more work or carry out further investigations. Once the outcome of that work is completed it will be possible to see if further tests are required.”
The investigation came about because of concerns raised about the lab’s capacity to function while it was undergoing a merger with another service nearby. Inspectors, who visited in September last year, were disappointed by some of the procedures and ordered test results to be reviewed. It is those test results that are currently being re-examined.
The women who were wrongly informed they were cancer free have already been contacted and told they should seek out another test as soon as possible.
One can hardly imagine what it must be like to receive that kind of news.