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About population screening

Published on 29 September 2023

About national population screening programmes

This page provides information on how the screening programmes are managed and run across NHS Scotland.

If you would like more information on what screening means for you as a participant or to find out when you are due for your next screening appointment, visit the NHS inform website.

Why we run the screening programmes

Screening is the process of identifying people who appear healthy but may have a higher chance of developing a disease or condition.

Screening programmes detect early indications of disease or conditions and provide a reliable method of referral for diagnostic testing and/or treatment.

For a screening intervention to be introduced as a national screening programme, it must be acceptably accurate and designed to test for a disease or condition where earlier detection and intervention would be of benefit to the participant. 

NSS National Services Division (NSD) works with NHS Boards to coordinate and commission elements of Scotland’s eight national population screening programmes:

While Boards are accountable for providing screening to their own population, many elements of screening are commissioned or procured on their behalf, on a national basis by NHS Nationsl Services Scotland (NSS).

We work by bringing together the people who commission screening in NHSS Boards, Public Health experts, programme clinicians, managers and staff, IT and communication experts, and many others to discuss and agree protocols and pathways. By implementing good risk and adverse event management, we can identify and implement service improvements.

NSS National Services Division (NSD) commissions services, hosted and delivered by territorial Boards on behalf of a wider population:

  • The Scottish Breast Screening Programme is nationally commissioned and delivered through six Breast Screening Centres to provide this service on a regional basis for local participants
  • The Scottish Bowel Screening Centre (hosted by NHS Tayside) provides the Bowel Screening Programme for all participants across Scotland
  • The DES Collaborative (NHS Highland), supports the Diabetic Eye Screening programme
  • A number of National Laboratory services are hosted by individual NHS Boards and commissioned to provide national services for the Cervical Screening Programme, the Pregnancy Screening Programme and the Newborn Screening Programme
  • Training programmes to support the national screening programmes may be nationally commissioned e.g. the Scottish Cervical Training School and the Scottish Academy of Breast Imaging

Screening Policy lies with Scottish Government which considers recommendations made by the UK National Screening Committee.

Find out more about each programme by following the links above.