Brian Gough and his wife Trixie. Trixie was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer after finding a small lump in her breast in late 2010 and died in 2015. Now, Brian has questioned if she was one of the women who could have been saved or lived longer. PHE and the NHS are working round-the-clock to offer advice and ensure that every person affected will be offered appropriate follow-up. Arrangements have been put in place to ensure those affected can access services appropriately, and that those already in the system will not have their care disrupted.” Show more Laura Preston, from legal firm Slater Gordon, said the numbers who could seek compensation were “huge”.The lawyer said the new scandal could result in the biggest legal action against the NHS ever mounted.But Ms Preston, who was deputy lead solicitor fighting for compensation for victims of rogue surgeon Ian Paterson said that unless a bespoke scheme was set up for victims, they could be left fighting for years.“It could be absolutely massive but something that may take a very long time depending on how pragmatic the Government wants to be,” she said. Jeremy Hunt has held furious meetings with the agency chief, demanding to know how the failures took so long to be detected.As pressure mounted, Mr Selbie on Thursday night issued a statement, offering a “heartfelt and unreserved” apology on behalf of PHE and NHS breast screening services.And legal experts warned that victims of the scandal could face a long battle to secure compensation – with many likely to die before receiving any payout. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt makes his statement to MPs in the House of Commons on WednesdayCredit:PA “I think Mr Selbie should consider his position very carefully, he should resign,” she said. Around 140,000 women who missed scans have since died, with estimates that up to 270 deaths were caused by the absence of checks.Health officials have now embarked on efforts to contact around 300,000 women in their 70s, but have said it could take up to a month to send all the letters out, and six months for those who want mammograms to undergo them. The error affected 450,000 womenCredit:Rui Vieira/PA The NHS breast cancer screening scandal last night became a growing fiasco, with victims calling for the resignation of the man in charge.Helplines were overwhelmed with calls within hours of opening, while warning letters to alert women they had missed checks were sent to the wrong patients.Public Health England (PHE) is attempting to contact around 300,000 women who were denied screening checks they should have been offered over the last decade.But as the first warning letters arrived on Thursday, recipients included cancer sufferers who had never been excluded from the programme – raising concerns about whether those who missed checks will be reached.Victims of the scandal called for the resignation of Duncan Selbie, the head of Public Health England (PHE), who has remained out of public view since the blunders emerged on Wednesday. Patricia Minchin should have been offered a mammogram in 2013. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015Credit:Tom Pilston for The Telegraph They criticised the career NHS manager for being slow to apologise to women affected by the scandal, including those whose lives it may cost.Helplines set up by PHE received 8,000 calls on Thursday, with cancer sufferers saying it had taken them more than an hour to get through.Meanwhile bereaved relatives said they were told by call-handlers to put a complaint in writing. The debacle has increased pressure on Mr Selbie, the head of PHE, who was already facing questions about how “administrative incompetence” meant blunders went undetected for years. Ministers have said cancer sufferers may be able to secure payment if they can prove harm was caused by delays in diagnosis. But they have failed to announce any kind of fast-track scheme which would automate compensation for those who were denied a check and went on to develop cancer.The problems began with an error made to computer programmes in 2009, which meant around 450,000 women aged between 68 and 71 were not invited for mammograms.An independent inquiry is to examine how it was that PHE, which took responsibility for the programme in 2013, failed to detect the problems – even as screening rates fell to the lowest rates in a decade. Cancer sufferer Helen Jarvis, 72, was among those attempting to contact PHE’s helplines on Thursday, eventually getting through after an hour of trying.The retired NHS therapist, from Newport Pagnell, has recently begun treatment for cancer, after finding a lump in her breast, and has since learned she is among hundreds of thousands of women who were never offered the scan which could have saved them.And Lee Towsey, from Brighton said he was told to send a complaint in writing when he called the helpline to ask whether his mother – who died of breast cancer in 2012 – was among those affected by the failings.“All I was told by the guy was ‘yes she was probably one of those women’, and the phone went dead,” he said.PHE last night said it had twice increased capacity in order to cope with demand yesterday, and would bring in extra call handlers today.And in a statement released on Thursday night, Mr Selbie said: “On behalf of PHE and NHS breast screening services, our apology is heartfelt and unreserved. She said: “I saw the letter and was just confused in honesty, I’m going to call them because I think this whole disgraceful error will have caused enough people anxiety and upset, but to now be sending letters to the wrong people, what is going on?”Describing the chaos as “disgraceful,” she called for the resignation of PHE’s chief executive, saying he should “have a conscience” over the failings by his agency. Diane Loxam, 71, from Lancaster, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, after having a mammogram the year before, following a screening invitation.Yet she is among those who received a warning letter from PHE on Thursday saying she had been affected by the blundersThe grandmother-of-three said she was left “anxious and confused” – and concerned about whether the failed targeting of the letters meant women who needed to be recalled were missing out. “The numbers we are talking about are huge.“It would be a tragedy if these victims don’t get some reassurance that this is going to be dealt with quickly.”Without a bespoke scheme, individuals would need to try to prove that their harm was caused by the delay in diagnosis -something the solicitor said is notoriously difficult.