Scotland’s chief nursing officer to step down from role

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Health boards have contacted 174 women who may have been “wrongly excluded” from the cervical screening programme to offer them new fast-track appointments.

The action comes after public health minister Maree Todd told MSPs in June that a woman had died after this happened to her.

Since the error was revealed, health boards have reviewed the records of 484 patients, with 174 of these women now being contacted to make appointments for cervical cancer checks.

The Scottish Government confirmed 39 women who were wrongly excluded but still within the age range for cervical screening had been reinstated to the programme, and have been asked to contact their GP to arrange a smear test.

Meanwhile, 46 women who are now no longer eligible for screening due to their age have been written to and offered an appointment at a gynaecology clinic.

Similar appointments are being offered to 89 women after their medical records failed to show if excluding them from screening was the correct decision.

In addition to this, efforts are being made to trace a “small number of women” who are no longer living in Scotland.

And while the audit showed 204 women were correctly excluded from the screening programme, with no further action needed, a review is being carried out into the cases of 100 women who have since died, in order to determine whether cervical cancer was responsible for or contributed to their death.

It comes after Todd told how some woman had been wrongly taken off the list for cervical screening after having a sub-total hysterectomy – where part of the cervix can be left behind, meaning checks are still needed.

The review examined cases of those women who had sub-total hysterectomies before 1997, with the Scottish Government confirming those affected should now have received a letter.

Todd said: “We recognise the anxiety anyone receiving a letter will almost certainly feel, and we are sorry for that.

“It is important to stress that the risk of developing cervical cancer is extremely low – fewer than one in 100 women will develop it in their lifetimes.

“As we have stressed throughout this incident, anyone who is experiencing symptoms of cervical cancer – that is, anyone experiencing unusual discharge, or bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause – should make an appointment with their GP practice.

More information on symptoms is available on NHS Inform.”

The minister added that she would provide a “more detailed update” on the situation to MSPs after the Holyrood recess.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton insisted there were still questions for the government, saying the update issued by ministers “only scratches the surface”.

He added: “Huge questions remain about how this error went undiscovered for so long, and why ministers withheld details about it until after the election.”

Cole-Hamilton continued: “This also does little to settle the serious anxieties many women and their families will be experiencing.

“Active risks remain for some, and signposting people to their GP isn’t enough support.

“The Scottish Government have a responsibility to ensure these women can access all the urgent and comprehensive care they need.

“This serves as a tragic reminder of the importance of cancer screening services, and of how important it is to see these programmes rebooted to deal with the post pandemic backlog as soon as possible.”

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