Epic Fail: A Glitch In The NHS Computer Program May Have Led To The Death Of About 270 Women In The UK
Since the year 2000, the breast cancer incidents in the United States have been in a steady decline. Between 2002 and 2003, there was a 7% decrease. Much of this is attributed to the fact that fewer women started using the hormone replacement therapy (HRT).Image Point Fr / Shutterstock.com
However, breast cancer accounts for the highest percentage of cancer deaths in the country amongst women. The next most fatal cancer is lung cancer. In 2017, about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women were breast cancers.
The NHS cancer screening program
On Wednesday of this week, health secretary Jeremy Hunt confessed to the UK parliament that a computer glitch had excluded almost half a million women from breast cancer screening.
In his address, Hunt said that up to 270 people may have their lives drastically shortened due to the error, while many others “would have been alive today if this had not happened”.
Apparently, the glitch started in 2009 when the scans of several women were cancelled during a program upgrade. The upgrade was part of a plan to assess the viability of expanding the screening program. It is rather odd that it went unnoticed till now.
Most of the women affected are in their late sixties and seventies, and Hunt says a faulty algorithm was responsible but not an intentional slight by the management. In the UK, women between 50 to 70 get invited to take breast scans every three years, as the likelihood of having the condition increases with advancing years.
Investigations are ongoing as to the cause of the glitch, and the communication is being established with women who missed out the scans over the years. While this may seem like a ray of sunshine, the sad reality is that many women may have already lost their lives to breast cancer since 2009.
Brian Gough lost his wife due to the error
Trixie Gough was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2010. She started treatment almost immediately at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Sadly, she died 28th December 2015, not long after she turned 76.Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
Brian Gough says his wife never received mail from the NHS asking her to book a screening appointment before she turned 71. Now, he wonders that she may have lived longer if she did get the letter and got scanned.
I feel sick. I don't know about whether she could have been saved, but I think she would have lived longer.
Brian Gough shared his ordeal with the Telegraph from his home in Norwich. He was married to Trixie Gough for 55 years.Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
It is hard to imagine the pain that Gough and all the other families who may have lost their loved ones are going through now, but it is hoped that this error will never be repeated in the future.