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UK NSC updates info on how commercial screening tests differ from NHS programmes

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The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) has updated its information on paid-for private screening tests and how they differ from NHS screening programmes.

The updated web page sets out the potential benefits and harms of all screening.

It also summarises some additional possible issues for people to think about if considering commercially offered health screening tests.

These issues include that commercial companies often only offer a test rather than an end-to-end screening pathway. If an individual then receives an abnormal finding, it is up to them to seek any advice, further investigation or treatment.

Private companies may also offer screening that is not evidence-based, so there are no reliable studies confirming that it leads to improved health outcomes.

Commercial screening tests can also cost several hundreds of pounds while providing no health benefits in isolation.

All screening does harm, but we know that the national NHS screening programmes do more good than harm at reasonable cost because of the UK NSC’s high evidential bar.

We cannot say with confidence that the same is true for all commercial screening tests.

Seven important questions

Our updated web page lists and expands on 7 important questions people might want to consider before deciding to take up the offer of a commercial screening test.

These are:

  • What would be the benefits of having the test?
  • Is the test already offered for free on the NHS?
  • Is the company properly regulated?
  • What do the fees cover?
  • Can the test do more harm than good?
  • What if the test picks something up?
  • What if there are no clear results?

Keep up to date

The UK NSC blog provides up to date news from the UK NSC. 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 email

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