Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has today welcomed the publication of the 2022 Annual Report of the National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC). This expert independent committee advises the Minister for Health about new national population screening programmes, or changes to existing programmes in line with international best practice.
The Committee’s third Annual Report details the activities and significant progress achieved in 2022 and some key priorities for 2023.
In 2022, the Committee made two recommendations; to add all types of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) to the National Newborn Bloodspot Screening (NBS) programme, and to implement a clinical guideline in the BowelScreen programme to align it with clinical practice across the symptomatic service in the HSE. Both of the recommendations were accepted.
The Committee asked HIQA to carry out four Health Technology Assessments;
- - to examine the evidence for the introduction of screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm;
- - to examine the evidence for age range expansion in the BowelScreen programme;
- - to examine the evidence for age expansion in the BreastCheck programme;
- - on the addition of Spinal Muscular Atrophy to the NBS programme, which is underway.
Minister Donnelly said:
“The NSAC has made excellent progress in 2022, and I welcome their Annual Report which sets out the significant work achieved.
“After the success of the Committee’s first annual call, I was delighted to receive and approve two recommendations. I am particularly pleased to see work on the expansion of newborn bloodspot screening beginning to build up pace and momentum and I know this is of great importance to many parents and families.
“I am also pleased to see the Committee are also looking at expanding our cancer screening programmes and the introduction of brand new programmes.
“It is important that Ireland is in line with international developments in screening and that we are evaluating the evidence with scientific rigour and I thank the NSAC for leading this work.”
Minister Donnelly also welcomed the call for expressions of interest in the role of the Chair of the Committee which is currently advertised on the State Boards website.
Minister Donnelly said: “I wish to express my gratitude to Professor Niall O’Higgins who has expertly guided the Committee through its first four years of operation. The Committee’s decisions and recommendations have been based on international best practice and the Committee has contributed to the advancement of national policy on population-based screening in Ireland. We all know that screening saves lives and I am committed to supporting our programmes and ensuring we have a service that can be trusted by the people of Ireland.
“I would encourage anyone who has an interest in the role of Chair of the Committee to submit an expression of interest for this rewarding role.”
Chair of the National Screening Advisory Committee, Prof Niall O’Higgins said:
“I am pleased to publish the 2022 NSAC Annual Report which records another busy year for the Committee. During 2022 we evaluated submissions received in response to the first annual call and made recommendations to the Minister. We also commissioned the dedicated team in HIQA to carry out comprehensive evidence reviews on four proposals.
“Since its inception, the NSAC has emphasised the critical value of public involvement in developing and implementing screening programmes. Screening belongs to the people and must be driven, informed and supported by the public.
“We are now at a crucial stage in the development of population-based screening policy, including cancer screening. Updated European Council Recommendations on cancer screening will involve consideration of modifications to our current cancer screening programmes and the introduction of new programmes.
“My term as Chair of the Committee comes to an end in June 2023 and I have been privileged to chair this energetic Committee and to be associated with its achievements over the past four years. The Committee’s success is due to the commitment, skill and determination of its diverse membership. I also want to acknowledge and thank members of the support teams in the Department of Health and HIQA for their work, and all of our stakeholders for their ongoing support.
“I recommend that anyone with the relevant experience and commitment should consider applying to lead this dynamic Committee into its next phase of operation.”
The vacancy is advertised on Stateboards.ie and www.nsacommittee.gov.ie with a closing date of 9 June 2023.
The NSAC Annual Report 2022 is available for download from the dedicated website www.nsacommittee.gov.ie
Notes to editors:
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 changes to existing programmes.
More information on the Committee is available on its website.
The Committee published its Work Programme in 2022. It is available here