Exclusive Dozens of women who had been assured that their cervical cancer screening results were negative are now being told they were abnormal and have been advised to contact their GPs following ‘procedural issues’ at the pathology site, Pulse has learned.
The issues were identified at the Pathology First site for the Essex screening programme, run by Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, as well as private sector partners – Integrated Pathology Partnerships.
The service has told Pulse that so far 17 women have been found to have been erroneously told their results were negative, but only 900 of the 2,500 have been checked to date.
GPs in the area were informed of the issue yesterday by NHS England and Public Health England.
The issues were identified following a visit by the Screening Quality Assurance Service, which said 2,500 samples taken between April 2016 and September 2017 had to be re-screened to confirm their status as negative by an independent cytology screening service.
Four letters have been sent to those women already identified, informing them that their results have now changed from negative to inadequate, borderline, low grade or high grade.
Two of those letters – for borderline and inadequate tests – say: ‘If you would like to speak to somebody about the contents of this letter, or have any concerns at all about your care, please contact your GP.’
The low and high grade letters direct patients to speak to their local colposcopy department
A statement from the trusts says: ‘The re-screening of 900 tests to date has identified that 17 women need to be seen again. These women have been contacted and will be invited for further assessment. Women whose negative result has been confirmed after re-screening will not be contacted as their result has not changed.
‘We would like to reassure all women covered by this cervical screening programme that NHS England and Public Health England Screening Quality Assurance Service are supporting Pathology First and clinicians at Basildon and Southend Hospitals to ensure they receive safe, high-quality screening. There have been changes to local processes, and update training for staff involved in screening.’
On their website, Pathology First have stated that they service approximately 750,000 patients and over 100 GP practices in the South East of England.
This news follows the publication of the latest data from NHS Digital, which showed that the number of eligible women undergoing cervical cancer screening has declined. According to Public Health England, 70% of cervical cancer deaths are prevented through screening, however that number would increase to 83% if everyone attended regular screening.