Health Secretary apologises to women who missed out on breast screening appointment

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman
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Breast cancer screening delays have resulted in 1,761 women in Scotland have not been invited for their last appointment in the programme, it has emerged.

A review of the Scottish Breast Screening Programme has found that some of the women, aged over 71, have been waiting up to three years for their final appointment.

Health Secretary Jeane Feeman has apologised for distressed caused by the delay.

Women in Scotland are invited for routine breast screening between the ages of 50 and 70.

According to a statement from the Scottish Government, the women affected were not invited for their final appointment by the time they had turned 70 as a result of delays within the programme.

The length of time the women affected have waited for their final appointments ranges from three years to a few months.

NHS screening centres have made arrangements to screen the women as quickly as possible, and additional staff are in place to answer phone enquiries and provide reassurance and support. The additional screening will not delay other women attending their routine appointments.

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The review was carried out by the Scottish Clinical Taskforce after the previous Health Secretary, Shona Robison, asked for further due diligence checks on the breast screening programme following separate issues in England announced by Public Health England in May this year.

The Scottish Government's statement said the immediate priority for it and NHS Scotland was to offer and carry out screening appointments for the women affected.

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Work to address issues with the automatic invitation system is being taken forward immediately and in the meantime all breast screening centres in Scotland are manually checking to pick up any women who may miss invitations due to this system issue.

Ms Freeman said: “I know this will be a worrying time for the women affected and I apologise fully for any distress caused. The women are being contacted as a priority and resources have been put in place to ensure they are screened promptly and offered any wider support needed. This additional screening will not delay other women attending their routine appointments.

“This issue came to light following a due diligence review of the breast screening system in Scotland which was undertaken after a significant incident with England’s breast screening programme earlier this year. I have been clear that we must learn from this and act to minimise the risk of similar incidents in future.”