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Tuesday, July 28, 1998 Published at 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK


Apology to cancer women

A letter has been sent to families

A health authority in South Wales has revealed that two women died and 12 others developed cancer after being wrongly told that their cervical smear tests were negative.

Bro Taf Health Authority has made an unreserved apology for the errors. For the women still alive, it has also offered counselling and a new examination by an eminent gynaecologist.

A number of them had to have radiotherapy and hysterectomies, and at least three are known to be seeking compensation.

Big scare

In 1994, the health authority ordered the re-testing of 2,000 smears analysed at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil after doubts surfaced about accuracy.

It was the biggest ever re-examination in Wales.

At the time, the hospital suspended its senior consultant pathologist on £60,000 a year. Bernard Charnley is now the longest suspended consultant in Britain. He is the subject of an independent inquiry that has yet to report its findings.

Unreserved apology

Dr Meirion Evans, Director of Public Health Medicine for Bro Taff, said a letter had been sent to all the families concerned.

[ image: Dr Meirion Evans: Apology]
Dr Meirion Evans: Apology
"It is impossible to say whether the two women died unnecessarily, but I think there is no doubt that their life expectancy was shortened by delays in their treatment," he said.

"This is unforgivable and the health authority, for that reason, has issued an unreserved apology to the women."

Dr Evans said an independent expert panel had reviewed the screening service and he was now confident it was operating effectively and safely.

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