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Improving health
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Coronavirus and screening programmes

The NHS Scotland national screening programmes are now in the process of resuming safely, carefully and in a series of stages. 

Screening is the process of identifying people who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. There are a number of national screening programmes in Scotland. These are designed to detect early signs of a disease or condition and provide referral and treatment where necessary. 

NHS Health Scotland works closely with NHS National Services Division and NHS Health Board Screening Co-ordinators to support professionals and the public with resources promoting informed choice within the national screening programmes.

  • Screening eligibility is based on age and gender.
  • Screening invitations are sent to the patient’s address that is registered with their GP.
  • AAA screening is for men aged 65 and is offered once.
  • Cervical screening is for women aged 25 to 64 and is offered every three or five years depending on age.
  • Breast screening is for women aged 50 to 70 and is offered every three years.
  • Bowel screening is for men and women aged 50 to 74 and is offered every two years.
  • Diabetic retinopathy screening is only for people with diabetes over the age of 12. It is offered every year.
  • Pregnancy screening is offered to all pregnant women at various stages of their pregnancy.
  • Newborn screening is offered to all new born babies within the first few weeks of life.

Screening and health inequalities

Uptake of cancer screening (breast, bowel and cervical) is lower in more deprived areas. The 2016 Scottish Cancer Strategy 'Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action' sets out a clear commitment to reduce inequalities in cancer screening.

For more information on cancer incidence, mortality, deprivation and trends over time see Information Service Division's Cancer page (external site).

NHS Health Scotland are committed to improving the reach of all the Scottish screening programmes. We aim to make all public information as accessible as possible and we facilitate opportunities for key stakeholders to work together to address the barriers to screening.

In 2017 NHS Health Scotland ran a screening and inequalities event. For more information you can download the brochure, agenda and presentations.

Local and national action

Information for the public

We produce information for the public on each of the screening programmes. Information for the public is available on NHS inform.

All our public information is available in other languages and in an Easy Read format. We are happy to consider requests for any additional languages and formats by emailing nhs.healthscotland-alternativeformats@nhs.net.

We produce information for the transgender community. Information includes

  • an overview of relevant screening programmes
  • eligibility for each screening programme
  • what happens if the CHI number has been changed.

We also produce information for those in prison or long stay institutions. Posters highlighting the different screening programmes people are eligible for have been produced for the public and professionals. Copies of the screening posters can be requested by emailing the publishing team at NHS Health Scotland. Please do not print yourself. This will result in a poor quality image.

UK National Screening Committee

The UK National Screening Committee (external site)

  • assesses evidence and makes recommendations for all the screening programmes
  • advises the UK Government and the NHS in the 4 UK countries all about aspects of screening
  • supports implementation of all screening programmes.

Detect Cancer Early

The Scottish Government launched the Detect Cancer Early programme (external site) in 2012. This is a programme of work to improve survival for people with cancer by diagnosing and treating the disease at an early stage. Visit the Scottish Government Get Checked Early (external site) website.

Allocating services proportionate to need

One way to reduce health inequalities is through provision of quality services with the allocation of resources proportionate to need.

For example, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Public Health Screening Unit used data to understand where screening was most needed and worked to improve access to it.

You can read a case study about this on our widening access to adult screening page.   

Get in touch

You can contact us with queries about our screening work.