Computer Fault Results In Letters Sent In Error

The Ministry of Health’s National Bowel Screening
Programme is apologising to people who were mistakenly sent
a letter inviting them to participate in bowel screening
even though they have, or have previously had, bowel
cancer.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield
says the letters were generated by a computer fault and sent
without the appropriate automatic filtering taking
place.
“We know that coping with cancer is uncertain
and stressful and we are sorry we have added to that
distress through this unfortunate error.”
Our
investigations indicate 1262 people in the Tairawhiti,
Canterbury and South Canterbury DHB areas were sent the
letters.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Simpson says the
Ministry has already spoken to more than 200 people who’ve
rung in after receiving the letters.
“In many cases
they have understandably been upset at the letters arriving
when they already have, or have had bowel cancer.
He says
many callers to the Ministry have been supportive of the
screening programme and have been understanding about
what’s happened under the circumstances.

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“We have
apologised and explained we are taking steps to ensure this
won’t happen again.”
He says a similar apology in
writing is being provided to everyone who received the
letters in error.
The fault was caused by the failure of
an automatic data download from the national cancer registry
that didn’t generate an alert as it should have
done.
“The names of patients on the registry, who had
previously been diagnosed with bowel cancer, should have
been taken out of the list of people invited for screening
but that didn’t happen.”
A manual fix is already in
place and the Ministry is working on a permanent fix that
will prevent the letters being automatically generated if
the filtering step isn’t completed.
In the first
instance anyone concerned should ring the Ministry’s
National Bowel Screening programme on 0800 924
432.

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