A major IT error meant that thousands of patients missed crucial breast cancer screenings, of whom 270 women are feared to have died because of the computer error in 2009, British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday.
Hunt told the House of Commons that because of a computer algorithm failure an estimated 450,000 women aged between 68 and 71 were not invited to their final breast screening between 2009 and the start of 2018.
The government has ordered an independent inquiry into the scandal.
“Our current best estimate, which comes with caveats… is that there may be between 135 and 270 women who had their lives shortened as a result. Tragically there are likely to be some people in this group who would have been alive today if the failure had not happened,” Hunt said.
The IT failure occurred in 2009 but only came to light earlier this year, almost a decade later.
Out of 450,000 women affected, 150,000 have since died, and the remaining women are now in their 70’s. Over 300,000 women will now be offered urgent scans, as some of them could be terminally ill.
Hunt apologized to the families of between 130 and 270 women who passed away as a result of the "administrative incompetence."
"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," the health secretary said.
Medical experts warn that early diagnosis is imperative to save lives from breast cancer, which occurs in 55,000 Brits a year, killing 11,000.
Social media has been abuzz with reactions to the news. People have expressed shock and sadness at the government's apparent error, which has cost some people their lives.
— Emma Cottage (@CottageEmma) May 2, 2018
— James Belveal (@Belv2998) May 2, 2018
— Mystic Nordic 🇪🇺 #FBPE (@mystic_nordic) May 2, 2018
— Sam Smethers (@Samsmethers) May 2, 2018