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Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Due To “Substandard” Screening

Cancer screening
30th June 2015

The delay caused by a ‘low risk’ breast cancer diagnosis may have shortened the life-expectancy of two women later diagnosed with the disease.

Three women were originally given the “all-clear” at a breast cancer screening but were later diagnosed with the disease after their results were checked by an assessor. The news follows the release of a report by Public Health England (PHE), which revealed that one senior radiologist at the hospital was responsible for 10 out of 12 assessments and more than 10 substandard assessments previously.

Insider “whistleblowers” have previously raised the alarm over the “treatment” by the hospital Trust of potentially 64 patients with missed cancer diagnoses.

Concerns over patient safety

An official request for an investigation has been submitted to the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP. The government minister is being called to carry out an independent  inquiry into the hospital Trust responsible for the screenings and the way it was assessed by a regional Quality Assurance team last year. The letter raises concerns over “patient safety” and notes that the quality of the screening programme appears to be “far from satisfactory” despite various PHE recommendations for improvement.

The hospital admitted that "substandard assessments” had occurred previously. However, a spokesman for the Trust said there is no proven link between the deaths of the two women and their late diagnosis, arguing that two to three women per 1,000 in the UK will go on to develop breast cancer following a negative screening result.

According to separate data analysis in 2014, around 2,400 breast cancers a year are being missed by NHS screening. Healthcare professional organisation, The Medical Protection Society say that one in five of all clinical negligence claims they deal with involve cancer and misdiagnosis is the common complaint in 80 per cent of claims.