HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman has apologised to almost 1800 women who missed out on screening appointments for breast cancer.

Freeman said it would be a “worrying time” for the 1761 women affected, after a review of the Scottish Breast Screening programme discovered they had not received their final appointments. As a result, some women will have had the checks delayed for up to three years.

Women in Scotland are invited for screening when they are aged between 50 and 70. Delays in the programme meant those affected were not invited for their final appointment at the age of 70.

Janice Preston, head of services for cancer charity Macmillan in Scotland, said: “It’s incredibly concerning that so many women in Scotland have not been able to have their final breast screening appointment.

“This will undoubtedly create a great deal of concern and anxiety for the women affected.”

The Scottish Government has already pledged that tests will be carried out as quickly as possible and that this should not impact on the current breast screening programme. Additional NHS staff are being put in place in a bid to provide reassurance to those affected.

Freeman said: “I know this will be a worrying time for the women affected and I apologise fully for any distress caused. The women are being contacted as a priority and resources have been put in place to ensure they are screened promptly and offered any wider support needed.

“This additional screening will not delay other women attending their routine appointments.

“This issue came to light following a due diligence review of the breast screening system in Scotland which was undertaken after a significant incident with England’s breast screening programme earlier this year. I have been clear that we must learn from this and act to minimise the risk of similar incidents in future.”

Tory public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said women would be “extremely concerned that they have been overlooked”. The LibDems’ Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The Scottish Government must remedy this at speed and ensure no other women ever face the potentially devastating consequences of such a blunder.”