Charities call for urgent action over latest cancer screening scare

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Cancer charities have called for urgent action after it was revealed that thousands of patients may have missed vital cancer screening and jabs during the past decade.Health officials are investigating reports that adults who should have been invited for breast and bowel cancer screening were not issued with invitations, and that children missed out on crucial jabs.Patients groups have expressed concern the latest screening scandal could further undermine public faith in the system.Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, said “Even hearing there’s the possibility of further issues with invitations to breast screening will compound the anxiety and uncertainty felt by many women after the awful failings earlier this year. If there have been problems they must be tackled urgently.”The charity urged women to attend regular screenings , saying it was the way of spotting early stage cancer.“While there are two sides to the coin for screening it remains our best tool for detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible stage,” said Ms al Qadhi.Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “If people have missed bowel or breast screening invitations as a result of these errors then that is extremely concerning – our cancer screening programmes are of a very high standard and detect cancers at the earliest stages when they are much more likely to be effectively treated.”We hope that anyone affected is contacted immediately and offered screening wherever appropriate.”The scare comes just three months after the last breast cancer screening scandal led the then health secretary Jeremy Hunt to apologise for errors that were estimated to have caused up to 75 deaths.An urgent investigation into the latest failing is underway, with new Health Secretary Matt Hancock due to be updated on the scale of the risks on Monday.The latest blunders are thought to relate to medical records for 55,000 patients, some of which could date back as far as 2008.Patients may not have been invited to child immunisation, newborns’ hearing screening, safeguarding, bowel cancer screening, breast screening, and abdominal aortic aneurysm screening.The investigation is understood to be at an early stage and there is currently no direct evidence any patients have been harmed.But a document by officials from NHS England and NHS Improvement document, obtained by the Health Service Journals (HSJ), show concerns about potential “risk of harm” to patients associated with 120,000 discrepancies between two national IT NHS systems.Ms Hiom added: “It’s concerning to hear of further problems with NHS technology, especially if people have inadvertently missed screening, vaccinations or care as a result.”Our health and social care system deserves to be supported by consistently reliable, 21st century IT, as well as seamless integration between all patient registers and electronic databases – this needs adequate attention and investment.”