Hundreds of women in the NHS Lothian region have missed breast cancer screenings after an administrative error.
The health board has apologised after an internal review found 369 women considered to have a higher risk of developing the disease may not have received appointments at the right time.
Individuals that are considered to have a moderate, high, or very high risk of developing breast cancer are normally invited for screening at 12, 18, or 24-month intervals.
The health board has now apologised and is arranging new appointments for those affected.
Katie Dee, deputy director of public health and chair of the adverse event management team, said: “Following an extensive review of participant records within our Increased Risk Breast Screening Programme, it was identified that a number of women may not have been invited for screening as regularly as they should.
“We are writing to the women who are affected to offer our sincere apologies, provide more information and to invite them for a new screening appointment.
“This incident is being investigated thoroughly and appropriate steps are being taken to ensure it does not happen again.
“We apologise for this error and any worry it may cause. We have set up a dedicated helpline that can provide more information, advice and support. This is available on 0800 085 8531.
“If anyone has concerns, we encourage you to please get in touch.”
Dr Jodie Moffat, head of strategic evidence and early diagnosis programme lead at Cancer Research UK, said: “All women aged 50 to 70 are invited to routine breast screening in Scotland.
“But for people at higher risk due to faulty genes, earlier and more frequent breast screening can be offered.
“Because the women affected by this error are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, it is very worrying that some have not been called forward for their screening as regularly as they should.
“It’s crucial that lessons are learned from this and that it doesn’t happen again. If you’re worried, please do call the helpline.”
Sue Webber, Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister and Lothians MSP, said: “This is an appalling situation for the women involved. They will be hugely anxious at this news coming to light and deserve urgent answers from NHS Lothian. I am heartbroken to hear this has happened.
“It is simply not good enough to pin the blame on administrative errors when lives are potentially at risk.
“NHS Lothian must be fully upfront about how on earth this was allowed to occur and why hundreds of women have missed out on vital appointments.
“They must redouble their efforts to identify every woman affected, particularly those who have moved further afield and will be harder to track down.
“NHS Lothian also must give a guarantee that these major errors will never happen again.”