Equitable access to screening: statutory duties under the Equality Act

Literature reviews and tips to enable health professionals to provide an inclusive screening programme to all eligible people.

Equitable access to screening

All eligible populations should have access to screening and understand the benefits and risks.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 includes specific duties for providers and commissioners of NHS Screening Programmes in regard to reducing health inequalities between the people of England.

Under the act, screening programmes should pay particular attention to reaching people with the 9 protected characteristics.

Other sections of the population who do not have a protected characteristic should still have access to screening in a way that meets their needs.

NHS England released a refreshed Equality Delivery System (EDS2) in November 2013 to help NHS organisations provide inclusive access to health services such as screening.

NHS Screening Programmes also provide tips and information to help providers with inclusive access.


A 2016 review of different ways to improve participation in cancer screening found that some methods are particularly effective. These include:

  • pre-screening reminders
  • GP endorsement
  • personalised reminders for non-participants

Previous literature reviews looking at the evidence of how best to reduce inequalities in screening took place in 2008 and 2013.

Additional notes from a PHE workshop on inequalities in screening in 2012 are available from the National Archives.

Published 1 March 2013
Last updated 27 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated to include the evaluation of interventions to improve participation in cancer screening services.
  2. First published.