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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS

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Breast screening incident update

Posted on Tuesday 13th November 2012
mike walker

Mike Walker

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is taking pro-active steps to investigate potential clinical negligence claims following the review into the breast screening service at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.

The Trust is making early admissions of liability and sending out formal letters of apologies where appropriate.

The Trust will continue to work closely with the solicitors involved in order to try and achieve a satisfactory resolution of any justified claims. The Trust has today admitted liability and formally apologised to three women who were recalled for further treatment following a review.

Mike Walker, Medical Director for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The Trust has been proactively investigating the care delivered to women who were recalled following the review and the suspension of the breast screening programme with the aim of finding resolution as soon as we can.

“We are now in a position to accept liability in three cases and have apologised to the women involved. This organisation is committed to providing an excellent service and we recognise the importance of learning from mistakes of this nature. We have taken steps to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future and we apologise unreservedly for the shortcomings in their care.”

Following the investigation into the breast screening incident in North Cumbria in July 2010, a report with recommendations for improvement was published to ensure lessons were learnt and developments were put in place.

The aim was to ensure that a safe and effective breast screening programme was re-established and a local screening service could continue to be provided for women in North Cumbria.

All of the recommendations in the report have been fully implemented and are now embedded into the service.

The North Cumbria breast screening service recommenced on 4 January 2011 after several months of complex programme management and change. We were very grateful for the support given to the programme by Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Screening, diagnosis and treatment services continue to be delivered locally and with the support of Newcastle, the service now forms part of a much wider screening unit.

A larger screening programme allows the service to continually develop with the support of Newcastle, and examples of best practice have been adopted as a direct result of the two organisations working together in partnership.

The new service included plans for catch up so that women whose screens were delayed were seen as soon as possible. The programme is expecting to have achieved this and be back on track by December 2012. All women affected by the suspension have had action taken to ensure they are not at a disadvantage.

The new screening service includes plans for the introduction of new digital mammography and we are also planning to introduce a new screening service for older women as soon as possible.

All Consultant Radiologists working in the breast screening service have completed additional training delivered by the National NHS Breast Screening Programme. All Consultants and Radiographic staff have regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and have undertaken annual appraisals in line with the Trust’s appraisal policy.

Robust arrangements for assessment of women who present with breast symptoms are in place with local GPs referring into the service.  All women are encouraged through health promotion campaigns to see their GP if they develop any breast symptoms.

There has also been a root-a-branch review of the Trust’s clinical governance to ensure that we have the right processes in place to deliver safe, high-quality care to all our patients.