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Making sure the UK NSC keeps recommendations up to date

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: General, UK National Screening Committee
This article was originally published on the Public Health England screening blog.
A flow chart of the UK NSC evidence review process
Flow chart describing the UK NSC evidence review process

I joined the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) evidence team over a year and a half ago. It never ceases to amaze me how many different types of work we can commission at any one time to make sure the UK NSC looks at a topic in the most appropriate and proportionate way.

The UK NSC published its evidence review process back in 2015 explaining how it:

  • consults and makes recommendations on new topics
  • changes existing screening programmes
  • brings together and analyses evidence for more than 100 conditions on a regular basis

Central to the process is checking if there have been any significant developments in the evidence base. Over the years, we have reviewed most of the topics on the list of conditions 3 or 4 times. In some cases, we keep finding the same evidence gaps and limitations year on year.

The evidence mapping approach

To try to make the evidence review process more efficient, the UK NSC evidence team has recently started trialling a new approach called ‘evidence mapping’.

Evidence maps are a way of scanning published literature to look at the volume and type of evidence about a topic. These maps can help the UK NSC decide if there is currently enough evidence available to commission a more in-depth review of the topic we are considering.

The evidence team is interested in this approach as it may provide a reliable and efficient way of making sure the UK NSC keeps its recommendations up to date.

It is still early days, but the diagram at the top of this post gives an idea of where evidence maps can fit within the broader evidence review process.

Consulting public and stakeholders

If you would like to see what an evidence map looks like in practice, head over to the UK NSC recommendations website and check out the document we wrote on antenatal and newborn screening for Fragile X Syndrome.

A public consultation on another evidence map, this time for Parvovirus B19 infection in pregnancy, opened recently and you can comment on this new document.

As ever, please let us know what you think by contacting us through the PHE screening helpdesk.

Stakeholders can also alert us at any point to new evidence which is published in between regular updates and may lead to a screening programme modification.

In addition, remember that the annual call for topics opens every year in September and gives the public a regular opportunity to suggest new topics which might be evaluated against the UK NSC criteria.

UK NSC blog

The UK NSC blog provides up to date news from the UK National Screening Committee. You can register to receive updates direct to your inbox, so there’s no need to keep checking for new articles. If you have any questions about this blog article, or about the work of the UK NSC, please contact the UK NSC helpdesk.

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  1. Comment by Phil Bullock posted on

    A thought...

    The best source of evidence should be that collected from national statistical returns. If they are not providing the evidence then are they right and do they need reviewing?

    • Replies to Phil Bullock>

      Comment by Andrew Anderson posted on

      Dear Mr Bullock
      Thank you for your comment. Certainly an interesting thought.
      National statistical returns might be most useful for questions relating to how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why. However, they may not be so useful to answer questions related to other UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) criteria, for example about screening test accuracy or effectiveness of screening.
      If you’d like to know more about the UK NSC evidence review process, please visit:
      I hope this helps.
      Best wishes

  2. Comment by Phil Bullock posted on

    Sorry that doesn't help! The data collection in my programme - cervical - had always included information that furnished an understanding of specificity and sensitivity and hence effectiveness - and if data collection does not answer those questions then perhaps it should be amended so that it does?

    There is a huge amount of evidence going to waste.

    Kind regards


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