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First public call for submissions on changes to screening programmes launched today #screeningcall

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, welcomes the launch of the National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC) first Annual Call for changes to screening programmes in Ireland.

The NSAC, which was established in 2019, is an independent advisory committee which advises the Minister for Health about new national population based screening programmes, or changes to existing programmes.

The NSAC is seeking proposals from the public on new screening programmes that may be adopted in Ireland, as well as suggestions for changes to five existing programmes: BreastCheck, CervicalCheck, BowelScreen, Diabetic RetinaScreen and the National Newborn Bloodspot Screening Programme.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD said; “Screening is an important health service that can help identify those who may be at risk of developing disease at an early stage. I am delighted that the NSAC has announced its first call for changes to screening in Ireland, giving the public a chance to be involved, at a national level, in relation to population based screening.

“Ireland currently provides free and accessible screening for a variety of diseases that has, since its establishment, reduced morbidity and mortality in the population. We want to expand this programme to encompass more areas of early detection and treatment and ensure our screening programmes evolve with new evidence and developments.

“I would encourage anyone who has a proposal for a new screening programme or changes to one of our existing programmes to take this opportunity to make a submission. It is really important that the NSAC hears from the public and patients as we strive to develop policy in relation to screening in a transparent and inclusive manner.”

Chair of the National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC), Professor Niall O’Higgins, said: “Convincing evidence from around the globe indicates that screening can prevent disease, improve cure rates, reduce serious illness and premature death, and sustain a better quality of life. The greatest value of screening will be achieved when the public is fully and actively engaged in its development and implementation.

"The Committee has moved to a new phase of its work by launching the first annual call for proposals for population-based health screening in Ireland.

This call provides this opportunity for public involvement by introducing new, or modifying existing, programmes.

"The NSAC has developed a rigorous process for assessing proposals. Applications will be appraised by employing validated scientific evidence. Recommendations to the Minister will be based on this analysis.

"The Committee is also aware of the need to revisit decisions periodically as new medical and scientific information becomes available.”

The Annual Call is open from today until 23rd December 2021. More information on how to make a proposal and the submission forms can be found on the NSAC website at



Notes to Editor: For media queries, or requests for spokespeople, please contact Dept. of Health press office:

Professor Niall O’Higgins, Chair of the National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC) and Jillian van Turnhout, member of NSAC available for interview opportunities.  #screeningcall

What is NSAC:

The National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC) is an independent advisory committee which advises the Minister and Department of Health on all new proposals for population-based screening programmes and revisions to existing programmes. The NSAC has made two recommendations to the Minister for Health since its establishment:

  1. In 2020 the NSAC recommended the addition of ADA -SCID (Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency – Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) to the list of conditions screened for as part of the National Newborn Bloodspot Screening Programme. Implementation of this is underway in the HSE.
  2. The NSAC also recommended the modification of the Diabetic RetinaScreen - the National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme in 2020, to extend the interval between screens from one to two years for people with diabetes who are at low risk of retinopathy. This change will reduce unnecessary clinic visits and examinations for lower risk patients.


What is an Annual Call?


This Annual call will give the public an opportunity to submit their proposals to changes to existing screening programmes and also suggest a new population- based screening programme for consideration by the NSAC. 


Existing Screening programmes in Ireland:

  • National Newborn Bloodspot Screening Programme
  • BreastCheck - The National Breast Screening Programme
  • CervicalCheck - The National Cervical Screening Programme
  • BowelScreen - The National Bowel Screening Programme
  • Diabetic RetinaScreen - The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme


What is screening?


Population based screening involves screening large groups of people rather than just individuals for a particular disease or condition.

A screening test is not a diagnostic test. - Screening is designed for populations of individuals who do not have any symptoms of disease. It aims to identify those with a risk marker for a disease and ensure early treatment. - A diagnostic test is designed for individuals with symptoms of a disease or for those identified with a risk marker to assess whether they have it or to follow its progress.


Population based screening programmes aim to reduce disease and death in the population through early detection of disease and treatment, both of which greatly improve health outcomes.