NHS bosses look to overhaul cancer screening

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Cancer screening programmes are to be reviewed following high-profile mistakes that have put thousands of patients in England at risk.

NHS England has asked former government cancer tsar Sir Mike Richards to look at what changes are needed.

Three national schemes cover breast, cervical and bowel cancers.

On Wednesday, it emerged letters about the cervical cancer tests that should have gone to 40,000 women between January and June had not been sent.

About 4,000 of them were results of tests, the remainder were letters inviting them for screening or reminding them tests were due.

Between 150 and 200 of the test results that were not sent out detailed abnormal results.

NHS bosses have been able to contact all those affected.

The service in charge of distributing letters is provided for NHS England by Capita.

Looking at the merits of outsourcing screening was going to form part of the review, NHS England said.

The problems come just months after it emerged 174,000 women had not been invited for breast cancer screening, after mistakes had gone undetected for years.

That service was not outsourced.

Sir Mike has also been asked to look at whether the programmes are making sufficient use of technology and whether the age ranges for the types of screening being offered is right.

“There is no doubt that screening programmes save thousands of lives every year,” he said.

“However, as part of implementing the NHS’s long term plan, we want to make certain they are as effective as possible.”

The results of the review are expected by the summer of next year.

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