NHS screening

As part of our public health role we have a responsibility to encourage people to take part in a variety of NHS screening programmes.


Screening is a process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a certain disease or condition.

They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition.

There are five adult NHS screening programmes and, dependent on your age and gender, you will be invited to take part in these screening programmes.

Bowel cancer screening programme

Men and women aged between 60 and 74 are invited every two years to take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme (opens in a new window).

Bowel cancer screening aims to spot potential symptoms of bowel cancer at an early stage through detection of blood in faeces (poo).

The test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but the results indicate whether a further examination is needed.

The test kit is received by post, carried out at home and then sent (by Freepost) to the laboratory for testing.

The pack comes with instructions on how to complete the test in the privacy of your own home. Over several days, you will need to collect very small samples of your faeces on a special test card, after you use the toilet. This card is then posted back to a laboratory, where a chemical is added to the samples on the card to check for blood.

If you are within the screening age range and have not yet received your first test kit, tel: 0800 7076060 to request one.

People aged over 75 can request a screening kit by calling free, tel: 0800 7076060.

You can find out more about the bowel cancer screening programme (opens in a new window).

Breast screening programme

Breast screening aims to detect breast cancers at an early stage, through mammography, before they have become large enough to feel.

Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited every three years to take part in the NHS breast screening programme (opens in a new window).

The programme is now phasing in an extension of the age of women eligible for breast screening to those aged 47 to 73. This started in 2010 and is expected to be complete by 2016.

Women over 70 can still have screening every three years, by making their own appointment at their local breast screening unit.

Cervical screening programme

Women aged between 25 and 64 are invited to take part in the NHS cervical screening programme (opens in a new window).

Women aged 25 to 49 are invited every three years, and women aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years.

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer. It is a method of preventing cancer by detecting and treating early abnormalities which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer in a woman's cervix (the neck of the womb).

Women aged 65 and over are taken out of the system unless they need ongoing surveillance or a follow up check. The progression of cervical cancer means it is highly unlikely that women of 65 and over will go on to develop the disease. Women aged 65 and over who have never had a test are entitled to one.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening programme

The NHS abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening programme (opens in a new window) invites men for screening when they turn 65.

The NHS offers screening in order to find aneurysms early so they can be checked regularly or treated if needed. The easiest way to find out if you have an aneurysm is to have an ultrasound scan of your abdomen.

If you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm you will not generally notice any symptoms. This means that you cannot tell if you have one, as you will not feel any pain or notice anything different.

The screening test for AAA is a simple ultrasound scan of the abdomen that usually takes less than 10 minutes.

Men over 65 who have not previously been screened or diagnosed with an aneurysm can request a scan by contacting their local abdominal screening programme (opens in a new window).

Diabetic eye screening programme

The NHS diabetic eye screening programme (opens in a new window) aims to reduce the risk of sight loss in people with diabetes. The screening process helps to identify diabetic retinopathy early and ensure patients are offered effective treatment where necessary.

All people aged 12 and over with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) are offered annual screening appointments.

The screening test usually takes around 30 minutes.

At your appointment, screening staff will give you eye drops to make your pupils larger so the retina can be seen more clearly and then take digital photos of your retina.

View the local contact details for the diabetic eye screening programme (opens in a new window).

Derby Hospitals have developed a new diabetic eye screening service on the Derby Hospitals website (opens in a new window) that provides information around screening and booking.

Screening in pregnancy

You will be offered some screening tests during pregnancy (opens in a new window) to try to find any health problems that could affect you or your baby, such as infectious diseases, Down's syndrome, or physical abnormalities.

The tests can help you make choices about care or treatment during your pregnancy or after your baby is born.

All screening tests offered by the NHS are free.

You can also find information about screening tests for you and your baby attached to this page.

Newborn screening

When a baby is born there are a range of routine health checks and tests that will take place in the first six weeks. These include:

  • a physical examination
  • a hearing test
  • a blood test (taken from the baby's heel)

Most babies are healthy and won't have any of the conditions or problems that the screening tests are looking for.

But for those babies that do have a health problem, the benefits of screening can be enormous. Early treatment can improve health and prevent serious problems.

The physical examination is usually carried out within 72 hours of your baby being born and again at six to eight weeks old.

The examination is a head to toe check and includes checking the eyes, heart and other organs. Find out more about the NHS newborn physical examination programme (opens in a new window).

The hearing test is usually carried out before your baby leaves hospital or within a few weeks of birth. It aims to spot any problems with hearing so that the correct support can be offered. Find out more about the NHS newborn hearing screening programme (opens in a new window).

The blood test aims to check for signs of serious but rare conditions such as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, inherited metabolic diseases and others.

The test will be carried out at five days old. A health professional will prick your baby's heel to collect blood samples which are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Find out more about the NHS newborn blood spot screening programme (opens in a new window).

Related documents

The following documents are in Portable Document Format (PDF). You can download software to view PDF documents for free from the Adobe website (opens in a new window)