Practice recalls over 1,000 women as ‘human error’ on smear tests revealed

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WOMEN up to the age of 77 are among more than 1,000 patients being retested for early warning signs of cervical cancer after a GPs’ practice discovered some tests were being carried out incorrectly.

Letters have gone out to 1,200 women seen by the same member of staff at Brough and South Cave Medical Practice over the past 13 years.

The practice says the risk that any cervical abnormalities have not been picked up is “very low” but are offering repeat smear tests as a precaution.

The screening programme covers women aged 25 to 64, and the recall will include around 20 women, now aged 77, who had their final test in 1999-2000.

Women are routinely invited to have the tests, which are designed to detect abnormal pre-cancerous cells in the cervix.

During tests some cells are removed from the cervix, which are then examined under a microscope to look for early changes, which left untreated could develop into cancer of the cervix.

Dr Tabitha Tinker, a senior partner at Brough and South Cave Medical Practice, said the problem was picked up by a trained sample taker observing another sample taker at the practice. The observations revealed the staff member was only viewing and sampling from one part of the cervix. The mistake has been put down to human error.

She added: “The sample may not have been sufficient because the whole of the area that is required to be sampled may not have been sampled.

“In some cases the test was carried out properly, but in others may not have been, but we need to have full confidence that each test is carried out to the highest standards and because of that we have chosen and taken advice to offer every individual whose last sample was taken by the individual sample taker to have a repeat sample taken.”

The sample taker is no longer carrying out the tests.

Dr Tim Allison, Director of Public Health for NHS East Riding, said only women contacted by NHS East Riding, or notified by their own GP, were included in the re-screen.

He said: “We appreciate that this re-screen may cause some concern and would like to reassure women that the reason we are offering them a repeat test is to confirm the results of their original smear tests.”