Health records of 200,000 Scots women to be reviewed following botched cervical screening programme

By Chris McCall

The health records of almost 200,000 women in Scotland will be reviewed to ensure no further patients were wrongly excluded from a botched cervical screening programme.

The Scottish Government was forced to reveal in June that at least one woman had died from cancer after being wrongly told she did not need to be checked.

An NHS audit has now found that another two women, who were wrongly excluded from the screening programme, later developed cancer and died - although one was described as a "very complex case where several factors appear to have contributed".

It was previously announced that 430 women had been incorrectly dropped from the screening programme over the last 24 years.

Health experts have now recommended that everyone who was permanently excluded from the programme over several decades should also have their records reviewed, a process that could take up to 12 months to complete.

The NHS mistakenly discounted the patients from future screening after they underwent a hysterectomy - but women should still have been screened if part of their cervix was not fully removed.

Maree Todd told MSPs that health boards have already written to around 600 women whose records show they have, or may have had, sub-total hysterectomies.

The women's health minister said: “I once again offer my sincere apologies to all those affected by these errors.

"In particular, I extend heartfelt apologies to the women who were excluded from the programme who went on to develop cancer, and to their families. I also recognise the anxiety this will have caused to all those wrongly excluded from screening.

“I know this further review will also concern people, however, I hope I can offer some reassurance.

"Firstly around 95% of hysterectomies carried out in Scotland are total, and women who have had total hysterectomies do not need to be screened.

“Secondly, the risk of cervical cancer in general is fewer than one in every 100 women in Scotland across their lifetime.

"Thirdly, there are dedicated NHS staff who are committed to completing this work as quickly as possible, and to bringing all their considerable expertise to doing so.

“I recognise that people whose records are being reviewed will want and need to know how long they will have to wait for the outcomes of this review."

Jackie Baillie asked why previous audits had failed to pick up on the number of women who were wrongly excluded from the screening programme and called on Todd to apologise.

The Scottish Labour health spokeswoman added: "We will never know if this gross oversight contributed to the deaths of three women who deserved so much better.

Todd responded that previous audit reviews had been "more limited in scope".

She added: "With the benefit of hindsight, it is really important to ask whether there were opportunities to look further and whether wider issues could have been spotted earlier.

"I agree questions can and should be asked that opportunities were missed."

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