Population screening programmes – guidance

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening: programme overview

How the NHS abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening programme works: who is eligible, what it does, how to find out more.

Screening is the process of identifying individuals who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition.

The process is not perfect and in every screen there are a number of false positives and false negatives.

Evidence and recommendations

The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) assesses evidence and makes recommendations to the 4 UK governments about population screening programmes.

Screening tests

The NHS abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening programme is available for all men aged 65 and over in England.

The programme aims to reduce AAA related mortality among men aged 65 to 74.

A simple ultrasound test is performed to detect AAA. The scan itself is quick, painless and non-invasive and the results are provided straight away. A result letter is also sent to all patients’ GPs.

There is a clear pathway to care. Healthcare professionals should be familiar with the pathway and the timeframe in which to refer patients.

Every man who attends for screening must read the AAA screening patient data information. Men must understand and agree to the NHS keeping and using their personal information before the screening takes place. The screener must record the man’s consent.


Healthcare professionals can use the AAA online learning modules and training resources to learn about the screening process and keep their knowledge up-to-date.

More detailed information and training documents can be found on the continuing professional development (CPD) site.


All commissioners must follow the service specification, and supporting documents to ensure an effective programme is set up, and the programme meets the standards set by the national screening programme.

Local programmes must refer to treatment centres that follow the Vascular Society for Great Britain and Ireland (VSGBI) framework for improving the results of elective AAA repair.

IT requirements

Systematic screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms requires the handling and recording of call and recall information and the recording and managing of ultrasound images. Local AAA screening providers must use the national Screening Management and Referrals Tracking (SMaRT) IT system and ensure that they record the national minimum data set.

The guidelines on handling patient information explain how to use and safeguard personal data in screening.

Failsafe process

The failsafe document describes the failsafe processes which sit alongside the care pathway. The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) provides guidance on managing serious incidents in the screening process.


Organisations applying to conduct research using AAA screening data should refer to the research terms of reference, and research application guidance, before completing the research application form.

Contact the screening programme

NHS population screening helpdesk

Public Health England Zone B
Floor 2 Skipton House
80 London Road