• Terms of reference for review into breast screening mistake published by Jeremy Hunt
  • Number of women whose lives have been shortened revised down to less than 75
  • The NHS has provided 68,000 additional breast screening appointments

The number of women whose lives may have been shortened by an error in the national breast screening programme has been revised down to less than 75, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has told Parliament.

In a written statement yesterday, Mr Hunt also revealed the NHS has organised 68,000 screening appointments within the last month on top of the normal screening workload to avoid delays to routine appointments.

Last month, Mr Hunt told MPs it was not known how many women had been harmed by the mistake but said estimates he had been given suggested between 135 and 270 women’s lives had been shortened by the error.

The mistake, which was only recognised this year, affected thousands of women aged between 68 and 71 who were not invited to their final breast screening between 2009 and May 2018.

He told MPs yesterday: “I can now confirm, based on analysis by Public Health England, using data provided by NHS Digital that up to 174,000 women were affected by this issue, of which we know that up to 130,000 are still alive.

“As a result, the numbers who may have had their lives shortened as a result of missing their screening is now estimated to be less than 75. Whilst this figure is lower than the original estimates given in my statement, this does not lessen the devastating impact that this has had on some people’s lives.”

He said all affected women who wanted an additional screening test would be seen by the end of October without impacting on other patients. He praised NHS staff for working hard to offer the extra appointments and managers who he said had “co-ordinated and pooled their resources across different centres, or looked to other private providers, to expand capacity to manage the extra demand.”

By 18 May, Public Health England had contacted 195,565 women registered with a GP in England. In addition, 503 women in Scotland, 94 in Wales and 72 women in Northern Ireland have been contacted. So far, 26,774 women have received an appointment for screening.

Mr Hunt also revealed terms of reference have been agreed for a review into the mistake, which is to be chaired by Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive Lynda Thomas and consultant oncologist Professor Martin Gore.

The review will consider:

  • The reason/s why certain cohorts of women were not called for a final screen;
  • Establishing the timeline of relevant events from 2009 to 2018 of the Age X trial and the national programme, including their administration and governance;
  • Identifying why the problems were not detected earlier, including whether there were missed opportunities to identify and rectify the failure earlier;
  • Assessing the governance, assurance and accountability processes;
  • The clinical implications for the affected population as a whole; and
  • How the issue came to light, and the handling and escalation progress in 2018.

It will report by November 2018.