Few stories appearing in The Oxford Times in 2014 can have caused greater anxiety for many readers than our report about the recall of women by Oxfordshire Breast Screening Service.

In August, we revealed that a review had taken place into the cases of 624 women assessed at the breast screening unit at the Churchill Hospital.

As a consequence of this 30 women were having to be urgently recalled, amid fears that some had been wrongly given the all-clear.

Today, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed that regrettably those fears were very well grounded. For following further tests, six women have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The various recalls, investigations and reviews were initially triggered after five women developed breast cancer, having been incorrectly told they were free of abnormalities.

Given the number of women in Oxfordshire to have undergone mammograms — some 73,000 in three years with all women aged between 50 and 70 invited — the six women to have been diagnosed with breast cancer following the review represents a tiny proportion of this total.

But that in no way should diminish the devastating impact that the breast screening service recall will have had on the women, and, of course, their families, who go into 2015 on cancer treatment programmes.
It appears that Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust acted quickly to review the cases of hundreds of women, when it emerged that something had gone very wrong in breast cancer assessment.

Many questions remain unanswered. We hear that all the cases involved assessments undertaken by one radiologist.
This doctor remains employed by the trust, an investigation is under way but still no firm conclusions have been reached.
The recall may have been thorough, but it is difficult to accept that all the right lessons have been learned until it has been properly established what in fact went wrong.
But the greatest disaster now would be if the recalls, serious incident investigations and speculation about human error were to persuade some women no longer to attend screening appointments.
As Public Health England points out the recalls and reviews resulted from assessment issues, rather than any issue with the screening process itself.

Women, understandably distressed by the outcome of the OBSS recall and still wanting more answers about what happened and how processes have been improved, should note that one clear message is coming from Public Health England, the local hospitals trust and NHS England: women should continue to attend breast screening appointments when invited.
As for OUHT, restoring total trust in Oxfordshire Breast Screening Service must be a major priority, with the conclusions of its current investigation released as speedily as possible, while being fair to medical staff involved.