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About population screening

Published on 02 April 2020

Health screening programmes paused due to COVID-19

Due to the rapidly changing situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19), several screening programmes have been temporarily paused until further notice. The paused programmes are as follows:

  • breast screening
  • cervical screening
  • bowel screening
  • abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening
  • diabetic retinopathy (eye) screening

In practice, this means no additional patients will be invited for screening until further notice. Results for those who have recently been screened or who have completed and returned home test kits will continue to be processed.

The move means healthcare staff can be re-allocated to support other essential services, including COVID-19 laboratory testing and covering for colleagues who are unwell or self-isolating.

Pregnancy and Newborn Screening Programmes, including tests offered during pregnancy and just after birth, will continue where logistically practical.

Read the full Scottish Government statement on their website.

Participants can find more information on the NHS inform website.

Why we run the screening programmes

Screening programmes detect early signs of disease and provide a reliable method of referral for diagnostic testing and further treatment.

Screening in itself is not indicative of the presence of disease. In order for a screening programme to be considered for national designation, it must be acceptably accurate and designed to test for a disease where earlier detection and intervention would be of benefit to the patient.

We work with boards to coordinate and commission elements of Scotland’s eight national population screening programmes:

Coordination means we bring together the people who commission screening, including:

  • NHSS boards
  • public health experts
  • programme clinicians
  • managers and staff
  • IT and communication experts

Alongside others, they connect to discuss and agree protocols and pathways. As the programme helps to continuously improve services, good risk and adverse event management are also taken into account.

We also commission some elements of each of the breast and bowel screening programmes, as well as the laboratories for the pregnancy and newborn bloodspot screening programmes.

Screening policy is set by the Scottish Government Health Directorates on the advice of the UK National Screening Committee.

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