Guidance

Private screening for health conditions: NHS recommendations

This document explains the NHS view on private screening for different conditions and diseases.

Private companies offer screening for conditions not included on the NHS. Members of the public can speak to their general practitioner (GP) for more information.

Information for the public is available in the thinking about private screening leaflet.

Separate guidance for GPs around private screening is also available.

NHS recommendations

The UK National Screening Commitee (UK NSC) regularly updates its recommendations.

Screening for the following conditions is commonly offered by private companies:

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

There is no evidence showing that screening for men younger than 65 would deliver any major benefits.

On the NHS, men aged 65 are offered screening by the NHS Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme (AAA).

All men over the age of 65 can also request screening.

Men and women with a close relative who has had the condition can also request screening.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation screening is not currently recommended.

It is not clear that people identified through screening would benefit from early diagnosis.

People aged 40 to 74 can receive a free NHS Health Check assessment of their vascular health.

Carotid artery plaque or stenosis

Prevention methods are currently more effective than screening. The available treatment carries a higher risk than benefits.

People aged 40 to 74 are eligible for a free NHS Health Check assessment of their vascular health.

Cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI)

Screening is not currently recommended.

GPs can provide advice and carry out individual tests on request.

People aged 40 to 74 can receive a free NHS Health Check which includes assessment of cholesterol, glucose levels, blood pressure and BMI.

Chronic kidney disease

Screening is not currently recommended. There is no evidence that early identification through screening would be beneficial.

Assessment of kidney disease risk is available on the NHS Health Check, which is free for people aged 40 to 74.

Dementia

Screening is not recommended because there is no available test proven to be accurate.

People aged 40 to 74 can receive a free NHS Health Check which includes advice on certain types of dementia.

General health “MOT” or health check

People aged 40 to 74 can receive a free NHS Health Check which offers risk assessment for those at a higher risk of developing certain conditions.

These include:

  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • stroke
  • kidney disease

GPs can perform basic checks and tests, including:

  • cholesterol level
  • blood pressure
  • BMI

Heart disease, stroke risk assessment and lifestyle advice

Screening is not currently recommended.

People aged 40 to 74 can receive a free NHS Health Check which includes assessment of cholesterol, glucose levels, blood pressure and BMI.

Heart failure

Screening is not recommended for some conditions that can lead to heart failure:

  • hypertension
  • atrial fibrillation

People aged 40 to 74 can receive a free NHS Health Check which includes risk assessment of heart disease and stroke.

Liver damage

Screening is not currently recommended for some conditions that can lead to liver damage:

  • haemochromatosis
  • hepatitis C

There are over 100 conditions that can lead to liver damage. Those experiencing symptoms or have any concerns should speak to their GP.

Lung cancer

Screening is not currently recommended. This is because there is not enough evidence to inform a screening programme.

A European research study is currently testing whether screening can save lives. A UK pilot of lung screening (UKLS) is evaluating its effectiveness.

Peripheral arterial disease

Screening is not recommended because prevention methods are currently more effective. The available treatment carries a higher risk than the potential benefits.

People aged 40 to 74 can receive the free NHS Health Check which includes assessment of their vascular health.

Thyroid disease

Screening is not currently recommended. This is because there is no evidence that the early identification is beneficial.

There are good tests and treatment pathways already available for those with symptoms.

There is no agreement on what a normal thyroid hormone level is. This means screening those without symptoms would not be appropriate.

Type 2 diabetes

Screening is not currently recommended because prevention methods are more effective.

There is no clear benefit in the early identification of asymptomatic people.

The free NHS Health Check offers an assessment of vascular health for those aged 40 to 74, including risk of type 2 diabetes.