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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 4 May 2018

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Dear everyone

For obvious reasons there is only one matter to cover this week - the failure over many years to invite a large number of women to their final breast cancer screen.

For most of us early detection and treatment are critical for positive outcomes from cancer. We should all be proud that the NHS offers a world-leading breast cancer screening programme with good evidence of benefit over harm, certainly for 50-70 year olds. The AgeX trial is to determine whether that remains the case for older women.

Cancer screening programmes offer hope and reassurance to people, prolonging and preserving life and this means so much. So when things go wrong, we understand how devastating this can be.

You will all be aware of the announcement made about the NHS breast screening programme by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday. PHE identified data anomalies which led us to a thorough investigation into the IT invitation system. From this it was found that a number of invitations to attend a final breast screening test for women aged between 68 and 71 had not been sent out as they should have been.

We know this will be extremely distressing for many. On behalf of PHE and NHS breast screening services, our apology is heartfelt and unreserved. PHE and the NHS are working round-the-clock to offer advice and ensure that every person affected will be offered appropriate follow-up. Arrangements have been put in place to ensure those affected can access services appropriately, and that those already in the system will not have their care disrupted.

The comprehensive review commissioned by the Secretary of State will allow PHE, NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and local breast screening services to properly understand what happened and determine what must be done to ensure no recurrence arises in the future.

At the forefront of our thoughts are those people affected and their families and they will remain the focus of our attention and efforts to ensure that all organisations involved carry out the next steps with the efficiency and sensitivity needed.

With best wishes,

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