“Up to 270 women in England may have died because they did not receive invitations to a final routine breast cancer screening, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says.
Speaking in the Commons, he said 450,000 women aged 68-71 had failed to get invitations since 2009.
Mr Hunt has announced an independent review and apologised “wholeheartedly” to the women and their families.
He said oversight of the NHS screening programme had “not been good enough”.
Mr Hunt told the Commons that computer modelling suggested between 135 and 270 women may have had their lives shortened.
GPs’ leaders said they were “shocked” to learn of the error and said the implications for GPs would potentially be “significant”.
Of the 450,000 women affected, 309,000 are still alive and in their 70s.
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Mr Hunt said: “For them and others it is incredibly upsetting to know that you did not receive an invitation for screening at the correct time and totally devastating to hear you may have lost or be about to lose a loved one because of administrative incompetence.”
He said a computer algorithm failure was to blame, which meant, in some cases, women approaching their 71st birthday were not sent an invitation for a final breast scan as they should have been.
Variation in the way that local services sent out invitations may also have been a factor, he said.”
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