Breast cancer charity makes awareness call for over 70s

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Parliament that women aged between 67 and 70 were affected, but Sky News understands those not invited were overwhelmingly aged 70 at the time they were due to be scanned.

"Our current best estimate, which comes with caveats... is that there may be between 135 and 270 women who had their lives shortened as a result".

The health secretary will announce a major inquiry into the programme, run by Public Health England, the Guardian understands.

Mr Hunt confirmed work is ongoing between the United Kingdom and Welsh governments to ensure the letters are sent out to everyone.

Women in Scotland are not affected by the error because it has a different IT system.

All women under 75 will automatically receive invitations to catch-up screenings and women 72 and over will be given access to a helpline to get clinical advice on whether a screening is appropriate for them.

There are women who may have died and the grief it caused their loved ones, and there are the women who may have avoided gruelling treatment.

"We know this may leave many women with questions about breast screening".

Mr Hunt said: 'Irrespective of when the incident started, the fact is that for many years oversight of our screening programme has not been good enough.

At the time of the discovery, Hunt said, Public Health England advised him that the public should not be told to allow time for remedial measures to be put in place.

The IT error that led to 450,000 women not receiving their invitation for a final mammogram was introduced in 2009, when the NHS launched a trial called AgeX.

She said: "Hundreds of thousands of women across England have been failed by this appalling error and some have had their lives shortened as a result".

He also said that the error has since been fixed and promised that the 309,000 women who were confirmed to still be alive would be contacted by the end of May 2018 with the first 65,000 letters sent out this week. Around four in every five women can expect to survive, thanks in part to the early diagnosis provided by the national screening service.

"The Welsh administration doesn't believe that this problem has affected them, even though they were using the same IT system that we were using in England, but that is their view".

"We must also recognise that there may be some who receive a letter having had a recent terminal diagnosis".

"I am glad the truth has come out, and I just hope that people take more notice of these glitches, it really does affect people's real lives, devastatingly, it really devastates".

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