Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
We Are Closed

NHS Screening: What, Why and When

The NHS isn’t just there to treat you when you are ill. It’s also there to prevent illness and keep you healthy.

One way this happens is through the NHS screening programme.

You can read through below or use the buttons to jump to the different sections.

What is Screening?

Screening is the term used to find out if someone has a high risk of developing certain serious health conditions.

It is important to say that screening is for people who are generally fit and well.

If someone has symptoms associated with any of the screened conditions, then they should see their GP and not wait to be invited to a screening.

Being invited for screening shouldn’t be anything to worry about. It is about preventing future illness.

Each screening varies, but the most common tests involve either a blood sample, ultrasound or x-ray, physical examination, or collecting a sample of cells.

Why Screen?

Finding signs of disease early often gives the best chance of successful treatment.

An example is cervical screening. The test itself looks for signs of Human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

Finding and treating cells with signs of HPV can prevent nearly all cases of cervical cancer from developing.

The conditions that the NHS screens for are all able to be detected early and can be better treated the sooner they are found.

When does screening happen?

Screening begins in pregnancy, with important tests in the first few days of our lives after birth.

Later in life, we’ll be invited to screenings at different times based on our age and bodies.

This video timeline and table below show who is screened for what and when.

Sickle cell and thalassaemia screeningPregnant womenFirst ten weeksBlood test
HIV, Hepatitis B, SyphilisPregnant women8th – 12th week of pregnancyBlood test
Diabetic eye screeningPregnant women with diabetesAnytime during pregnancyReading letters from a chart drops put in each eye, photos taken of the back of the eyes
Foetal anomaly screening (11 conditions including Down’s syndrome)Pregnant women10th – 20th week of pregnancyUltrasound and blood test
New-born screening (eyes, heart, hips, hearing, testicles if male)New-born babiesFirst 3 daysPhysical examination
‘Heel prick test’ (9 rare but serious conditions such as cystic fibrosis)New-born babiesFive days oldA few drops of blood taken from the baby’s heel
Diabetic eye screeningPeople with diabetes12+Reading letters from a chart, drops put in each eye, photos taken of the back of the eyes.
Cervical cancer screeningWomen and people with a cervix25 – 64Cell sample collected from the cervix
Breast cancer screeningWomen50 – 70Mammogram (x-ray)
Bowel cancer screeningAll60 – 74, every two yearsTest at home kit
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screeningMen65Abdominal ultrasound


Soon after a screening, you will be notified of the result.

If your results are typical, then there is nothing else you need to do. Some programmes test every few years, so you’ll be invited again in the future.

An abnormal result does not mean you have that condition. It means your chances of getting it might be higher.

A clinician will discuss your results and what your options are. This may be further tests or some form of treatment.

Remember, screening is for healthy people. It looks for future signs of illness before symptoms can develop. If you do have symptoms of a condition that you could be screened for, don’t wait – arrange to see a GP.

Verified by MonsterInsights