LIFESTYLE

Michelle Heaton Reveals 'Insensitive' Letter She Received From NHS After Hysterectomy

'Your medical records indicate that you do not have, or no longer have, a cervix.'

13/06/2016 14:27 | Updated 13 June 2016

Michelle Heaton has revealed her upset over a letter she received from the NHS following her hysterectomy.

The 36-year-old underwent the procedure last year to reduce her chance of developing ovarian cancer after finding out she's inherited a mutated BRCA2 gene.

The letter was sent to Heaton to confirm she's been removed from the cervical screening list as she "no longer [has] a cervix".

The former Liberty X star posted a photo of the letter onto Instagram, along with the caption: "Well.. I do love the #NHS .. But maybe there's a reason why it's #NHSDIRECT

"A simple human emotion like 'I'm sorry to hear that...' would have made this so much better for me to read." 

Public Health England has since apologised to Heaton, saying it will be reviewing its letter-sending process in due course. 

The full letter reads: "We have been advised that your name should be removed from the list of women eligible for cervical screening. This is because your medical records indicate that you do not have, or no longer have, a cervix. 

"I am therefore writing to confirm that you will no longer receive invitations to screening.

“If you believe this information is incorrect and you should still be called for screening, please contact this office as soon as possible.”

Karwai Tang via Getty Images

In an blog featured exclusively on The Huffington Post UK platform, Heaton said she was "in tears" when she received the letter. 

"I understand that these letters must go out, but it wasn’t computer generated. It was signed - albeit a printed signature. But someone must have approved that and deemed it OK to be sent out," she wrote.

"Imagine that you had been through a hysterectomy, bouts of chemotherapy and received this. I’ve since discovered people have."

Heaton went on to say she's been inundated with messages from people on Twitter who've received similar letters from the NHS.

"It does appear this isn’t a one off or a confined to a small amount of people," she said.

"I didn’t want to blame anyone for this, or name any names, just hope to force a change.

"Just to ask people to remember that we are human beings who have feelings - and are likely to be quite emotional as well having undergone either preventative treatment or operations to remove cancer."

As well as getting in touch via Twitter, fans of the star have also left messages of support on Instagram, with many calling the letter "insensitive".

One user said: "I was 27 when I had an emergency hysterectomy just after my daughter was born.

"I received the same later five weeks after and it felt like I had been slapped in the face! Perhaps the wording [should be put] a bit more sensitively!"

Another added: "I think this letter is a bit on the cold side too.

"It's great you can highlight your experience again. Especially for people who are going through these experiences now."

Tracie Miles, a gynaecological cancer nurse specialist working for Ask Eve, an information service run by the gynaecological cancer charity The Eve Appeal, has also criticised the letter for being "impersonal". 

"Firstly we would like to congratulate Michelle, and other women like her, who have made the brave and positive decision to protect their life through having risk reducing surgery because of her inherited BRCA2 gene," she told The Huffington Post UK.

"Letters like this are sent out to communicate to women whether or not they should expect to receive future invitations to cervical cancer screening.

"In the case of those who aren’t eligible for screening, it can be very distressing to receive a letter inviting her for screening when she does not need to attend. 

"Whilst on the one hand it is important that Michelle is informed that she no longer needs cervical screening, it is easy to see how upsetting this letter is as the language used is impersonal."

Miles added that unfortunately, there is no easy solution to avoiding future situations like this.

"In an ideal world, these letters would be individualised, however the reality of making this happen would be challenging," she said.

"We would like to take this opportunity to encourage any woman with a concern or question about ovarian, cervical or any of the other gynaecological cancers to contact Ask Eve." 

In a statement given to HuffPost UK, Dr Anne Mackie, director of screening at Public Health England (PHE) chose to directly address Heaton, saying: "We are sorry that the letter you received caused you distress having already been through such a difficult time and extensive surgery.

"Whenever a woman is notified to the programme as no longer being eligible for cervical screening, this letter is automatically sent out to let her know that she won’t receive any further invitations.

"We include the reason for this in case the information we have received is incorrect, and she is in fact still able to be screened."

Dr Mackie added that PHE does not receive any background information with regards to the reasons for a woman’s change of circumstances - whether it is through choice or necessity.

She added: "We will review the letter in light of your comments, and consult with screening participants and patient groups to see if we can deliver this message in more gentle way."

10 Symptoms That Could Mean Cancer

Also on HuffPost

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS