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Due to the rapidly changing situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19), several screening programmes have been temporarily paused until further notice. This decision was made by the Scottish Government, on advice of the Scottish Screening Committee.

Screening programmes affected

The screening programmes that have been paused are:

  • Breast Screening (mammograms)
  • Cervical Screening (smear tests)
  • Bowel Screening (home test kits)
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening
  • Diabetic Retinopathy (Eye) Screening

The Pregnancy and Newborn Screening Programmes will continue where it is logistically practical.

Reasons for pausing screening

There are a number of reasons behind the decision to pause the affected screening programmes. These are primarily to:

  • minimise the impact on essential NHS services as we respond to COVID-19
  • allow the re-allocation of screening programme staff to support these essential services within NHS Boards where needed.

Existing appointments and invitations

NHS Scotland will pause invitations and cancel all issued screening appointments within a maximum of 48 hours of the decision to pause. Follow-up appointments and results for those participants who have recently been screened will continue to be processed. Laboratory activity and testing capacity will be reviewed as the situation progresses.

For cervical screening, prompts and reminders will be paused and primary care and other clinics will be asked to cease taking samples with immediate effect.

Bowel screening kits will not be issued for the foreseeable future. Kits that are returned will continue to be tested. However, participants will be asked to keep kits which have yet to be completed until the programme is restarted. Please note that for kits already issued and in participants’ homes, the expiry time is approximately 18-24 months.

Re-starting screening

The screening programmes will be restarted as soon as it is agreed safe to do so. This will be based on evidence received on COVID-19. Each screening programme will be reviewed on a regular basis by its Programme Board.

When screening programmes restart, the programmes will re-issue prompts and reminders and re-arrange missed appointments.

Advice for the public

It is important to emphasise to patients that in between screening appointments, or as they wait for rescheduled appointments, they should continue to be aware of and act on any symptoms associated with the conditions being screened for.

Please reassure your patients that if they have concerns, they should call NHS inform on 0800 22 44 88 or contact a Screening Centre.

If patients are concerned about symptoms, they should contact their GP practice.

Commonly asked questions

We know patients may have some questions about the changes. NHS inform has added an information page with common questions (external site) in order to answer patients queries.