NHS population screening: role and functions of quality assurance

Explains what quality assurance is and the processes involved.

The role of the Screening Quality Assurance Service (SQAS) is to:

Programme standards

Each NHS screening programme has a defined set of standards to ensure that services are of a high quality.

Quality assurance (QA) assessment and local visit reports

Each local screening programme provider must:

  • have internal processes in place for managing service quality
  • take part in QA assessment and reviews

Programme specific operating models (PSOMs) explain the QA process for providers and commissioners of:

Executive summaries of QA visit reports are available for:


The SQAS, in collaboration with NHS England, has produced guidance to help manage incidents in the screening programmes.

Shared learning

Screening programmes, local providers, commissioners and other stakeholders can share learning about the NHS population screening programmes. The guidance for submitting a case for shared learning explains the national mechanism for doing this.

The SQAS and the national screening programmes review all submissions and share approved cases for shared learning on the PHE screening blog.

Checks and audits for failsafe

A failsafe is a mechanism in addition to usual care. It explains what action is necessary to ensure a safe outcome for the programme and patient.

Each screening programme has its own detailed checks and audits for failsafe process.

Pathway requirements and service specifications

Public Health England sets pathway requirements and the NHS screening programmes set service specifications to follow when commissioning and providing local services.

Care pathways

Read the population screening care pathways for screening and screened conditions. Health care professionals should use these guides to complete screening and referrals in expected time frames.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Service providers, programme teams and SQAS use KPIs to help measure the success of screening programmes.

Each screening programme provider must report KPI data using the appropriate reporting template.

Duty of candour

Guidance is available on best practice in applying duty of candour regulations in a screening context for providers and commissioners. Duty of candour regulations require everyone to be open and honest with people who use our services and to say sorry when things go wrong.

Equitable access

Screening providers have a statutory duty to ensure all eligible people have equitable access to screening services and information about screening.

Published 1 January 2014
Last updated 5 October 2016 + show all updates
  1. Addition of duty of candour guidance and link

  2. Addition of shared learning to functions under the quality assurance heading.

  3. First published.