Thousands spent in Norfolk fixing breast cancer screening scandal that never was
PUBLISHED: 17:12 01 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:16 01 May 2019
Thousands of pounds was spent at Norfolk's busiest hospital to tackle a national breast cancer screening scandal which it turned out never existed.
Then health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed in the House of Commons last May that an estimated 450,000 women aged between 68 and 71 were not invited to their final breast screening, which may have led to hundreds of missed cancer diagnoses.
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At the time he apologised “wholeheartedly and unreservedly for the suffering caused” and said 270 women may have died as a result.
It was estimated around 3,050 women in the catchment area for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) were affected.
The hospital paid temporary radiographers, brought a third ultrasound machine, and made a room available in genito-urinary medicine to tackle the apparent backlog, while the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn also held extra appointments.
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But in December it was revealed the blunder never existed - due to the government's failure to understand its own policy on inviting women for checks.
A Freedom of Information request sent by this newspaper revealed the NNUH spent £1,420 on extra hours for radiographers, £770 on receptionists, £2,120 on additional administration costs, and £30 on additional nursing hours catching up with appointments thought to have been missed.
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Permanent staff worked the additional time, which totalled 19 hours for the five extra clinics.
An NNUH spokesman said: “We'd like to thank all our staff who worked extra hours and ran additional breast screening clinics on evenings and weekends at short notice to provide reassurance to hundreds of patients as part of the response to the national breast cancer screening incident.
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“More than 450 local women were invited to an appointment and 384 were screened as part of this process.”
The JPUH and QEH both did not hold records of how much their extra clinics cost each trust, and neither were able to comment.
After it was revealed there was no mistake, Steve Brine, the public health minister, said: “I would like to apologise for the distress and suffering caused by this incident.”