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NHS Screening: Missing invitations or missed appointments

In our first two updates about screening, we’ve covered how the programmes work and how effective they are.

With this final part, we will focus on what to do if you’ve missed an appointment or how to get back into the programmes if you haven’t been invited to get screened.

You can use the buttons below to catch up on the first two parts and to skip ahead in this article if you prefer.

No Invitations

If you haven’t received invitations to book appointments for screenings you are eligible for, there are a couple of things to do.

First is to double-check the age criteria and timing for each programme.

For example, cervical screening begins at 25, with invitations typically send in the last few months of being 24. So, if you turn 25 and haven’t been invited, then it is worth following up.

The situation is different for breast cancer screening. People are eligible between 50 and 71, but invitations can work in 3-year cycles, meaning you may not receive your first invite until you are nearly 53.

Information about you on your medical record would also need to be accurate for certain programmes – conditions you have, whether you are registered as male or female etc. We’ll go into more detail on these in the next section.

Another factor could be if you have moved house or changed your phone number or email address. If your medical record has been updated with those changes, then invitations might not reach you.

You can check and update your details through our digital services. (You currently can’t update address information in the NHS App.)

Getting Back In

If you haven’t been getting screened, then there are ways to get back into the programmes.

Who to contact differs because some screenings can be done at GP practices, others need specialised clinics or kits sent to you.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening

AAA screening takes place in lots of locations, including some GP practices and hospitals.

If you are registered as male, you will be invited in the year you turn 65. If it gets to your 66th birthday without an invitation, then you should contact the AAA screening programme.

Contact: The NHS Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme for North East and North Cumbria.

Breast Cancer Screening

As mentioned above, screening begins at age 50 but you may be approaching 53 before being invited.

If you turn 53 without invitation, or it has been more than 3 years since your last mammogram, you should the local breast screening service.

Contact: The Newcastle Breast Screening Unit

The Unit works at the RVI in Newcastle but also has a mobile clinic. Screening is not done in GP practices due to the equipment needed.

Past the age of 71, you can continue to be screened if you want, but you won’t be automatically invited. The Breast Screening Unit would be the people to contact if you want to carry on being screened.

If you are trans or non-binary, how you are invited will depend on the sex you are registered with at the practice.

You can find more information on breast screening for trans and non-binary people here.

Cervical Cancer Screening

All women and people with cervixes should be invited to a cervical screening before they turn 25.

A letter will come in the post from the NHS, followed by a reminder if you don’t book an appointment. We will then contact you a third time if needed.

If you haven’t received an invitation by the time you are 25, please contact us via Contact us Online or call 0191 213 2778. We are open 8:00 am to 6:30 pm today.

Cervical screening can be done in GP practices by a Doctor or Nurse.

Some private or specialist clinics, as well as NHS sexual health services, may also offer cervical screening appointments. At the time of writing, Newcastle’s sexual health clinic at New Croft Centre is not able to offer routine appointments due to urgent demand.

Bowel Cancer Screening

Bowel screening is done with a simple test kit sent to you in the post.

Every two years, everyone aged 60 and older will be sent a test to do at home and return in the mail.

If your bowel cancer test kit hasn’t arrived or has been lost or accidentally thrown away, you can request a new kit by calling 0800 707 60 60.

More people are becoming eligible as the age range expands to include people in their 50s.

Diabetic Eye Screening

Anyone registered with a GP and recorded as diabetic will be invited to an eye screening every 12 months.

If more than a year has passed since your last test, and no invite has been received, please get in touch with the screening programme directly.

Contact: North of Tyne and Gateshead Diabetic Eye Screening Programme

Newborn and Developmental Screening

There are processes in place to make sure all newborns and young children are seen for important screenings and developmental checks in their first couple of years. This is part of your baby’s health and development review, or ‘red book’

However, if, for example, babies are born outside of the UK, these checks may be missed.

In most cases, these tests are done either in the days directly after birth or by Health Visitor teams.

If your baby is not being seen regularly, you should contact us via Contact us Online or call 0191 213 2778. We are open 8:00 am to 6:30 pm today.

You can find out more about newborn screening and developmental checks here.

Missed Appointments

Sometimes we all have to change our plans and can’t no longer make appointments we have already booked.

If you have an appointment booked – whether for a screening, a standard GP appointment or anywhere else in the NHS – and you know you can’t get there, please get in touch to cancel. Use the NHS App or call 0191 213 2778.

There will always be someone else able to fill the space, and it means no clinical time is wasted.

If you do miss an appointment and need to book another, use the details above for each programme.

If you have symptoms

We’ve said throughout this three-part series that screening is for otherwise healthy people.

If you experience any symptoms that relate to the conditions we’ve talked about, please contact us and speak to a clinician.

Do not wait until your next screening appointment.

Remember, screening does not test for the disease – it tests for the earliest signs of risk that, if found early, can prevent these conditions from developing.

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