Improvement in screening uptake in Wales

Public Health Wales issued more than 940,000 screening invitations to eligible individuals across its seven national screening programmes last year. 

Of those invited, over two thirds of individuals took up their screening offer.

The All-Wales Screening Division Annual Report for 2018-19 shows that participation rates increased across nearly all programmes, with the Wales Abdominal Aortic Aneurism Screening Programme (+1.6 per cent) and Bowel Screening Wales (+1.6 per cent) seeing the greatest increases in uptake compared to 2017-18. Over 3,000 more people took up their bowel screening offer this year compared to last.

The Diabetic Eye Screening programme also saw an increase with 2,500 more people taking up their screening offer.

Uptake of Newborn Hearing Screening and Newborn Bloodspot Screening remained very high at 99.4 per cent and 99.5 per cent respectively.

There was a small decrease of 0.3 per cent in the number of eligible women attending Breast Test Wales for breast screening.

In what was the 20th year of the Cervical Screening Wales programme, uptake of cervical screening increased by 0.7 per cent to 73.2 per cent. 

In March 2019, the programme ran an innovative social media campaign to encourage young women to take up their offer of cervical screening. The #LoveYourCervix campaign addressed issues young women cited as some of the main barriers to attending, such as embarrassment and body image.

Roll-out of the faecal immunochemical test (FIT test), an improved screening test for bowel cancer started in January 2019, with full implementation complete in September 2019. FIT is a more sensitive test that is easier for participants to complete.

Over the past year, the programme has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at understanding the barriers that prevent people from participating in bowel screening and addressing these in order to improve uptake.

Dr Sharon Hillier, Director of Public Health Wales’ Screening Division, said: 

“Putting together our annual report gives us the opportunity to take stock of the hard work that goes on across the division throughout the year, and also to see the results of that work reflected in uptake and coverage figures for the seven programmes. 

“It’s a real testament to staff working across the Screening Division that we have seen these figures increase across the majority of our programmes this year.

“Although the day-to-day work of the Screening Division centres on the delivery of safe and effective screening services, there is always development to our work - we continuously seek out opportunities for improvement, whether these be through policy changes, new technologies or feedback from services users.”

Screening is the process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. Screening programmes allow for the early detection and treatment of potential health problems.

Public Health Wales delivers the seven national population based screening programmes in Wales and manages the Antenatal Screening Wales clinical network.  The Welsh Government provides policy direction, advice and guidance on national screening programmes for the benefit of the Welsh population.

Further information on the screening programmes delivered and managed by Public Health Wales can be found on the Public Health Wales website and the full report can be found in the Public Health Wales data library

Annual Report

All Wales Annual Report Screening Division Public Health Wales 2018-19 published 16 January 2020