Surgeons Sorry for Texting Patients They Had 'Aggressive' Cancer Instead of 'Happy New Year'

A surgery center in the U.K. accidentally texted its patients two days before Christmas letting them know they had aggressive lung cancer.

Askern Medical Practice in the U.K. has apologized after texting thousands of patients to let them know they had “aggressive lung cancer with metastases” two days before Christmas.

Askern Medical Practice is a surgery center in Doncaster. On December 23, it texted its patients with an unusual request to fill out a DS1500 form. It’s a form that allows patients with terminal conditions to claim benefits quickly. “Diagnosis—aggressive lung cancer with metastases,” the message said. According to the BBC, Askern has around 8,000 patients.


The message was a mistake and the surgery center texted out an apology directly about an hour after the lung cancer message. According to the text, the surgery center meant to wish its patients well over the holidays. 

“Please accept our sincere apologies for the previous text message sent,” the apology said. “This has been sent in error. Our message to you should have read We wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In case of emergency please contact NHS 111.”

In a follow-up message on the surgery center’s Facebook account on January 3, it blamed both human error and computer-related issues. 

“While no data was breached, we can confirm an admin staff error was made, for which we apologized immediately upon becoming aware,” it said. “We would like to once again apologize sincerely to all patients for the distress caused. We take patient communication, confidentiality and data protection very seriously. We also [take] pride in looking after our patients. We would like to reassure all our patients that the text message was a mistake (it was an internal patient supportive task amongst admin staff to act upon) and not related to you as a patient in any way. This was an isolated computer-related error for which we are extremely regretful, and steps are being taken to prevent a reoccurrence.”

The apologies did not lessen the shock Askern’s patients felt for that hour on December 23 between the first and second text message. "I had just had a mole removed and was awaiting a result from a biopsy and I had been to hospital as my smear test came back abnormal, so yes, I was very worried,” one woman told the BBC.