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Resumption of Screening Services

Read more about the return of screening programmes here.

Published: 2 July 2020

The National Screening Service (NSS) is planning a phased restart of its screening programmes in July 2020.

Watch CervicalCheck Interim Clinical Director, Dr Caroline Mason Mohan explain the phased restart of screening programmes in this video.

What do you need to know?

The National Screening Service (NSS) four screening programmes were paused in March 2020 on Public Health advice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People who were in the screening system at the time of the pause have continued to be assessed and treated as resources allow.

A phased restart

The NSS is planning a phased restart of its screening programmes in July 2020. The programmes will restart as follows:

  • CervicalCheck will begin sending invites and reminders to participants in its cervical screening programme on Monday 6 July.
  • Diabetic RetinaScreen will also resume screening in July.
  • BreastCheck will resume screening in September/October.
  • BowelScreen will resume in September/October.

Invitations and reminders for people who are now overdue screening will be sent on a phased basis, in line with programme prioritisation.

In the case of cervical screening, this means that invitations and reminders will be first sent to people who are overdue a non-routine repeat screening. In addition, when Cervical Screening returns, it will return with the new HPV cervical screening test.

You can read more about the changes to the Cervical Screening programme here

A safe restart

Screening will look different when we restart. In order to ensure a safe restart, we will be taking measures to protect both participants and staff, and monitoring the restart to ensure their continuing safety. For this reason, we will be unable to screen people at the same level as pre-COVID-19. We will continue to follow Public Health guidelines and will adapt our planning accordingly. The health and safety of our participants continue to be our top priority at this time.

Screening is a population health measure for people who are presumed healthy and do not have symptoms. The aim of a population screening programme is to reduce the incidence of disease in a population. Screening is not a diagnostic tool and no screening test is completely accurate. All screening programmes are limited by the sensitivity of the test which is the ability to detect those with the disease in a population (true positives). Screening programmes are likewise limited by the specificity of the test which is the ability to detect those who are free of the disease (true negatives). Therefore, a negative test result is not a guarantee that you are clear of the condition or that you won't develop the condition between screening appointments.

The NSS continues to encourage all people who are between screening appointments or waiting for rescheduled appointments, to be aware of, and act upon, any symptoms associated with the conditions for which they are being screened. We ask that those people contact their GP, who will arrange appropriate follow-up care.

For more information please contact