The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) – the independent scientific committee which makes screening recommendations to UK ministers and the NHS – has appointed a new chair to contribute to its ongoing development.
The UK NSC was set up 26 years ago to make evidence-based recommendations to ministers so that thousands of people can be helped by health screening programmes.
In 2019, a task and finish group was established under the leadership of the 4 UK chief medical officers (CMOs) to review the criteria and terms of reference for the UK NSC to enable the committee to review targeted and population screening programmes.
On advice from the 4 UK CMOs, ministers have agreed to expand the functions of the committee. Going forward, the UK NSC will actively consider:
- targeted screening for high-risk groups
- stratified screening that is more tailored to the individual
- average risk population screening (as it does now)
It will have closer links with research bodies and guideline-making organisations such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).
The appointment of Professor Sir Mike Richards as the UK NSC's new chair is an important part of signalling the beginning of the new era. Sir Mike said:
I am delighted to have been appointed to this role at such an exciting time for screening. The new remit of the UK NSC provides opportunities to improve outcomes across a wide range of conditions, but will also require careful evaluation of potential benefits and harms.
Sir Mike brings a wealth of experience and expertise with him following his 30 years in the English NHS. His work and dedication to improving cancer outcomes was recognised when he was awarded a CBE in 2001 and a knighthood in 2010.
CMO Professor Chris Whitty said:
The UK NSC will be a proactive and strategic committee for the future, which will continue to drive improvements in our national screening programmes. I am delighted that Professor Sir Mike Richards has agreed to lead the NSC into its next chapter.
Everyone at the UK NSC is looking forward to working with Sir Mike on the many exciting screening projects which lie ahead, and which we’ll be sure to blog about in due course.
Huge thanks to Professor Steele
The UK NSC has made significant changes to population screening during Prof Bob Steele’s 6 years as chair. His hard work has supported many recommendations of national and international significance.
Important recommendations during Prof Steele's tenure include:
- introducing HPV as the new primary screen in NHS cervical screening and recommending longer intervals between screening tests
- extending intervals between tests in the NHS diabetic eye screening programme
- introducing the more sensitive and accurate faecal immunochemical test (FIT) in the bowel cancer screening programme and ceasing bowel scope
- the evaluative roll out of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) in screening for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome
- an evaluation of screening for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) as part of NHS newborn blood spot screening
- a formalised approach to ethics and a more efficient assessment of evidence
Screening is not straightforward, and Prof Steele’s huge experience, technical knowledge and engagement has helped the committee navigate and unpick many complex matters.
Prof Anne Mackie, Director of Screening at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, paid tribute to Prof Steele.
During Bob’s time, the UK NSC has worked with stakeholders and used evidence and judgement across the UK to mark a step change in the range and speed of recommendations, especially in looking at and improving existing programmes. Everyone on the UK NSC and secretariat wish Bob every success in the future.
Prof Whitty added:
Professor Steele’s expertise and experience has been central to many UK NSC recommendations and screening programme changes. I would like to thank Professor Steele for his dedication and skills over the past 6 years as chair of the UK NSC.
UK NSC blog
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