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by Louise Wilson
24 June 2021
Women’s health minister apologises to women excluded from cervical screening programme

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Women’s health minister apologises to women excluded from cervical screening programme

The Scottish Government has apologised after a “serious adverse event” led to a small number of women being excluded from the cervical screening programme.

The error, found via a routine audit of cervical cancer data, found around 430 women have not been invited to routine screenings following a hysterectomy since 1997.

A small number had gone on to develop cervical cancer and one woman had died.

Women’s health minister Maree Todd issued the public apology in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

She said: “I want to offer my condolences to the family of the woman who we now know died from cervical cancer after being excluded from the screening programme.

"These exclusions from the cervical screening programme should not have happened and I want to apologise to all those affected by this error. 

“I offer my heartfelt apologies in particular to the women who were excluded from the programme who went on to develop cancer, and to their families.”

 

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 the recent review found this was not happening in all cases.

Video: Scottish Parliament TV

The minister said the vast majority of women who had had hysterectomies were not impacted by the error.

NHS health boards have now written to all those affected, and the women will be offered fast-tracked appointments with GPs and gynaecology services.

Todd added: “There is no need for anyone who does not receive a letter to take any action, but it remains important for everyone, whether affected by this issue or not, to be alert for symptoms of cervical cancer and contact your GP practice if you have any.”

Anyone with concerns are being encouraged to call Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on 0808 802 800.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Screening relies on there being an accurate, up-to-date list of those who are eligible so invitations can be sent to the right person at the right time. It’s vital that this situation is learned from and never repeated. 

“If you have had a sub-total hysterectomy and are concerned that you’ve not received invitations for cervical screening, please give the helpline number a call.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Annie Wells described the news as “deeply distressing”.

And Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the situation was “extremely serious” and expressed concern that the full scale of the error was not yet known.

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