Skip to main content

Men, younger people and those living in the more deprived communities in Wales show lower uptake of life saving screening services

Published: 13 July 2022

A new report from Public Wales has been published that explores inequity in participation of the national, population based screening programmes following disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Screening Division Inequities Report 2020-21, looks at the year from April 2020 to the end of March 2021.

The report shows that people living in the most deprived communities in Wales were less likely to take up their offer of screening compared to those living in the least deprived communities.

For programmes that invite people across age groups, younger age groups are less likely to take up their offer of screening than people in older age groups. Bowel Screening invites all genders to participate, and men are less likely to take up their offer than women, though the gap is small.

The report also showed that, in programmes where people are invited more than once, people who have previously attended are more likely to respond to subsequent invitations.

Sikha de Souza, Consultant in Public Health, Public Health Wales, said:

“We are really pleased to be publishing this data which will help our programmes, as well as our partners and stakeholders, to understand where there are inequities, or unfair and avoidable differences, in uptake.

“This data will help us to target action that will assist in understanding and overcoming the barriers which cause these inequities. We need to make sure that we are considering equity and accessibility in all of our service delivery and future planning, along the whole of the screening pathway. We will continue to work with individuals, groups and communities to understand the barriers that they face and look for strategies to overcome them. Our programmes will work with the Screening Engagement Team and local health board colleagues, and build a sustainable partnership with third sector groups and communities to enable and encourage personal informed choice about screening.

“I would encourage anyone invited for screening to read the information that comes with your invitation carefully, to help you make an informed choice about taking part.” 

A further report looks at the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on screening services. The Covid-19 Impact Report on the National Screening Programmes in Wales: April 2020 to March 2021 reflects on the challenges faced during this most unusual year. The report focuses on three phases of the screening response: the initial pause in some services and redeployment of Screening Division resources and capacity; the phased reinstatement of screening followed by the continuation into the recovery period.

The report details how challenges continued throughout the first year of the pandemic within the recovery of the programmes. These include challenges relating to availability of screening clinic venues, reduced clinic capacity due to Coronavirus safe pathways and staff absence. Due to the pause and challenges, screening activity across all adult programmes was lower in 2020/21 than pre-pandemic levels.

All programmes have developed recovery plans to address these challenges. Although the hard work continues, the Cervical and Bowel Screening programmes have since recovered and invitations are being sent out without delay and the remaining programmes are working hard to recover the delay.

The newborn screening programmes (Newborn Bloodspot Screening and Newborn Hearing Screening) and antenatal screening continued throughout the pandemic as part of routine antenatal and postnatal care in Wales. 

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

“Delivering services during 2020 to 2021 was very challenging and I am very grateful to staff for working to offer screening and colleagues in health boards for their support. We continue to work towards full recovery of all the programmes that were paused and continue with our planned developments and improvements.”

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, improving health outcomes for the people of Wales.