Scottish Government accused of 'cynically' withholding details of cervical screening error
The Scottish Government has been accused of a “cynical abuse of power” after withholding information for almost four months about women being wrongly told they did not need cervical screening.
Women’s health minister Maree Todd revealed on Thursday that one woman had died and several others have developed cervical cancer after being wrongfully excluded from the screening programme.
At least 430 women who have had partial hysterectomies since 1997 were wrongly taken off the list.
The Scottish Government was notified about the error in March this year, but only made this information public yesterday, on the final sitting day of the Scottish Parliament before summer recess.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats said the information was “deliberately hidden” from the public before the election.
The party’s health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “It is a cynical abuse of power to only disclose this serious adverse event months later and on the afternoon when parliament breaks up for the summer. It is an insult to the women who were failed by the errors in this screening programme.”
Todd said the delay was due to the government wanting to identify the women involved before going public with the information, saying this involved a “laborious process of going through their records”.
The women have now been contacted and offered fast-tracked appointments with GPs and gynaecology services.
However, the minister has also said that records from before 1997, which are more difficult to access, still needed to be checked and therefore more women may be affected.
Labour’s Jackie Baillie said the decision to withhold the information “beggars belief”.
She added: “These women were failed for decades. The least they deserve is to have been made aware of the risk facing them as soon as it came to light… It is hard to see this as anything other than playing politics with people’s health.”
The majority of hysterectomies involve the removal of the cervix and therefore patients have no need to attend routine cervical screenings.
However, a ‘sub-total’ hysterectomy may leave part or all of the cervix. Patients who receive this type of treatment should continue to be invited to screenings – but an audit of the programme in December found this was not happening in all cases.