Press release

Academic report shows UK screening advisory body is world leading

A newly published academic report has praised the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) as being world leading.

Baby having a blood spot test

‘International comparisons of screening policy making: a systematic review’, shows how the UK NSC is seen worldwide as a best practice model for national population based screening programmes.

The report, undertaken by the University of Warwick, praised the UK NSC for implementing ‘the most integrated and evidence-based screening programmes in the world’.

The report supported and informed an in-depth review of the UK NSC, which is regularly reviewed to ensure all aspects of its work are based on best practice. A number of steps have already been taken in light of the review findings, including:

  • bringing greater transparency to the work of the UK NSC, for example by organising a stakeholder conference and piloting an annual call for proposals
  • helping stakeholders to respond to the UK NSC’s public consultations by making the review documents more consistent, and providing plain English summaries of the key points
  • starting to publish a code of practice to clearly set out the UK NSC’s work including oversight, performance, terms of business and membership

Dr Anne Mackie, Director of Programmes for the UK NSC, said:

Screening has an important role for the population in preventing ill health, disability and death. The findings reassure us that the work we do bears favourably in comparison with other screening bodies across the world. But there is always room for improvement and the findings of the review provide a clear guide about what we can do better.

The work of the UK NSC is essential in ensuring we only implement screening programmes where we have robust evidence that the programme will result in more good than harm.

Background:

  • The UK NSC’s role, terms of reference and membership are reviewed regularly. This provides an opportunity for an in-depth structure and process review to ensure best practice is applied to all aspects of the committee’s business. The review was overseen by a working group, which included representatives from each UK country as well as lay members, external stakeholders and independent public health screening experts.

  • To support and inform this work, a systematic review exploring international screening systems and processes was commissioned from the University of Warwick and the PHG Foundation; International comparisons of screening policy making: A systematic review.

  • The review took into account the recommendations made by the House of Common’s report National Health Screening published on 29 October 2014.

  • The UK NSC uses internationally recognised criteria for assessing evidence for screening programmes.

  • The UK NSC is a Scientific Advisory Committee that provides advice on screening to ministers in all 4 UK countries. Public Health England (PHE) provides the secretariat to the committee.

  • Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Follow us on Twitter: @PHE_uk, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland.

Public Health England Press Office

Published 20 July 2015