Sickle cell and thalassaemia (SCT) screening: programme overview

Information on the programme, including the screening tests, commissioning, quality assurance, education and training.

Public information about SCT screening is available on the NHS website.

There are no risks associated with screening for SCT. It can however provide information that may mean families have to make further important decisions. It is an individual’s choice whether or not to be screened.

The SCT screening handbook for antenatal laboratories and handbook for newborn laboratories set out interpretation and reporting guidelines related to laboratory processes, including which types of carrier states to report.

There is guidance on DNA testing for transfused babies which sets out the recommendations and processes for offering DNA tests to babies who have had a blood transfusion before newborn blood spot screening.

The screening inequalities strategy sets out the commitment to reduce inequalities and variation in screening participation to help make sure everyone has fair and equal access to services.

Patient confidentiality in population screening programmes explains how and why population screening programmes collect and process data.

Target population

Antenatal screening

Sickle cell disease (SCD) screening is offered to:

SCD screening is offered to all pregnant women in high prevalence areas. This is done using a simple blood test.

In low prevalence areas, the family origin questionnaire (FOQ) is used to determine if a person is likely to be a carrier for SCD or other haemoglobin disorder.

All pregnant women are offered screening for thalassaemia.

All biological fathers are offered screening if the pregnant woman is a genetic carrier for sickle cell disease or thalassaemia.

There are special circumstances where additional investigations may be required.

Newborn screening

All newborn babies are offered sickle cell screening as part of the newborn blood spot screening programme, usually when they are 5 days old.

Conditions screened for

The programme screens for:

Screening tests

The following screening tests may be offered:

Evidence base

SCT screening is one of 11 NHS national population screening programmes available in England.

The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) makes recommendations to ministers in the 4 UK countries on all aspects of population screening. It ensures that screening provides more benefit than harm, at a reasonable cost to the NHS.

Recommendations are based on internationally recognised criteria and a rigorous evidence review process.

There are separate UK NSC recommendations on:

Data and intelligence

See annual data collected from the linked antenatal and newborn SCT screening programme for data up to 31 March 2017.

For 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021 data, see the joint antenatal screening standards data report.

For 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022 data and onwards see our data collection page for Sickle cell and thalassaemia screening (SCT) standards reports

Key performance indicator (KPI) data reports are available for all 11 national screening programmes.

Requests for screening data and research

All requests for SCT screening data need to be approved by the antenatal and newborn (ANNB) screening research advisory committee (RAC).

See the terms of reference for NHS population screening programme RACs.


The SCT screening pathway requirements specification provides an overview of SCT screening by describing what should happen at each stage of the end-to-end pathway. Providers and commissioners should use this to ensure high quality and consistent screening services.

Quality assurance

Guidance is available on the SCT programme’s processes for ensuring a seamless and safe screening pathway.

The programme specific operating model for quality assurance of the SCT programme should be read in conjunction with the latest SQAS operating model and the relevant programme standards.

There are guidelines on handling patient information about how to use and safeguard personal data in screening.

Workforce – education and training

Training and continuing professional development (CPD) resources are available for people working in SCT screening in England.

There are also more general resources to support screening professionals in their initial training and CPD.

There is a visual representation of the SCT screening care pathways.

Contact the screening team

Population screening helpdesk

UKHSA Screening
Floor 5
Wellington House
133-155 Waterloo Road


Helpdesk phone number 020 3682 0890

The helpdesk is not for media enquiries and does not have access to screening results. For queries about results, contact your GP or local screening service. Order screening leaflets at

Published 1 January 2013
Last updated 17 August 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated information for 2021/22 annual data return in the data and intelligence section

  2. First published.