The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has made a statement to Parliament today about a 'serious failure' of the Breast Screening Programme in England. Due to an IT problem, an estimated 450,000 women aged between 68-71 have not been invited to their final screening appointment since 2009.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“We are deeply saddened and extremely concerned to hear that so many women have been let down by such a colossal systemic failure. That hundreds of thousands of women have not received the screening invitations they’ve been relying upon, at a time when they may be most at risk of breast cancer, is totally unacceptable.

“We know this will unfortunately be incredibly difficult news for many women to hear. Public Health England will be directly contacting all women affected – we’d urge against panic and encourage anyone concerned that they have missed their screening invitations to contact the Public Health England helpline directly for further advice. Screening prevents deaths from breast cancer – the earlier the disease is detected, the more likely treatment is to be successful and we’d encourage all women to attend their appointments.

“For those women who will have gone on to develop breast cancers that could have been picked up earlier through screening, this is a devastating error.

“It is right that Public Health England are offering the option of catch-up screening for those affected, and hope that women will choose to take this up. With the diagnostic workforce already at crisis capacity, significant investment – including the recruitment of over 200 mammographers and at least 50 radiologists – is now needed to ensure the Screening Programme can continue to run effectively.

“It is beyond belief that this major mistake has been sustained for almost a decade and we need to know why this has been allowed to happen. We welcome the Independent Inquiry to ensure this can never be repeated.”

You can find out more information in our Breast Screening Programme Failure blog.

If you have been affected by these issues, please contact the national Public Health England helpline which has been set up on 0800 169 2692 or go to the NHS Choices website for more information.