Our Glorious NHS – Cancer Screenings Out By Two Orders Of Magnitude

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You might recall that Our Glorious NHS – you know, such a Wonder of the World that no one has copied it despite their all having health care – managed to make something of a boo boo over mammograms. Failed to recall that 500,000 or so of them should be screened but weren’t. Something which in this day of computers and databases really isn’t quite on, to put it mildly.

Turns out they didn’t even get that right. They were out by two orders of magnitude which, we all agree, is a sterling proof of their basic competence. For missing 5,000 people isn’t that bad, it’s getting toward a rounding error in the scheme of things. Except, of course, the efficiency of thinking it was 500k in the first place.

Almost half a million women were forced to endure needless anxiety about cancer blunders which actually affected just 5,000, an independent review has found. Earlier this year Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Commons that a mistake by the national cancer programme meant around 450,000 women had missed out on checks. And the estimates suggested as many as 270 women may have been killed as a result. Now an independent review has found that thousands of women were left anxious, and NHS services “overwhelmed”, because of “misunderstandings” which led to the announcement. The review suggests the true number who missed out on invites for checks is likely to be just 5,000.

The thing is, no this result isn’t in fact better.

And it criticises a lack of grip from Public Health England when concerns were first raised.

Well, obviously, they’re too busy shouting about calories in pizzas. But still, try this on for size. The original blunder is one thing. But, having been alerted to the fact of a blunder, being out by two orders of magnitude? It’s that second which is worse, isn’t it. For it’s the manner an organisation deals with the inevitable mistakes which is really a judgement upon the efficiency of it.

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Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

“as many as 270 women may have been killed”

Interesting use of the transitive “killed” rather than the intransitive “died”.

Matt Ryan
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Matt Ryan

Not when it comes to the NHS – killed is probably more apt. Better still if they were elderly women left on a trolley in a corridor to starve to death.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

In business, I was prone to opine that you never know how good a supplier is until you’ve seen how they deal with the first cock-up.