A full review found the vast majority of these unprocessed items were correctly handled through another route, as part of the NHS Cervical Screening fail safes that are in place, but that 16 women missed an invitation to attend their appointment. Those who did experience delay and who need an invitation for screening have been contacted.
In addition 99 women requested to be removed from the programme, however the requests was not actioned. These requests have now been processed and the women concerned have been contacted to apologise for the delay. There is no current evidence that this incident has led to any harm. The advice from Public Health England is that the risk posed by the delay in sending these letters remains low in the context of the development of cervical cancer, which takes place over many years. The College understands that Capita are being stripped of their responsibilities for cervical screening administration, and the transition to an in-house service will be completed in the next few months.
Commenting on the cervical screening programme provided by Capita, Professor Jo Martin, President of The Royal College of Pathologists said:
“We have been made aware of the events regarding correspondence to the cervical screening programme run by Capita. NHS England and NHS Improvement have been very actively following up this issue. However, any delay is likely to have caused unnecessary anxiety for many women.
This serious incident highlights the importance of ensuring full and proper implementation of new IT systems, including on-going monitoring and evaluation, and ensuring that all users can transfer quickly to the new system. It is worrying that safeguards have not been followed.
We highlighted the importance of these safeguards in our very first safety bulletin. The College has offered support and collaboration to the North of England Commissioning Support Unit which is taking over responsibilities for cervical screening administration.”