Published on 

Minister for Health welcomes the launch of the National Screening Advisory Committee’s Annual Call for submissions

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD has welcomed the launch of the National Screening Advisory Committee’s Annual Call 2022.

This independent committee makes recommendations to the Minister on the introduction of new population-based screening programmes or changes to existing programmes.

It is now launching its Annual Call 2022, inviting members of the public and health professionals to make submissions on screening programmes in Ireland.

The Committee today also published its Work Programme, setting out the proposals currently being considered as a result of last year’s Annual Call, which resulted in 53 submissions.

It is also seeking four new Committee members with expertise in the Cancer, Communications/Journalism, Diagnostic Imaging and Medico-Legal fields.

Minister Donnelly said: “Screening saves lives and Ireland is striving to be at the forefront of developments in this area. I’m encouraged by the work of NSAC and the level of engagement from the public to date.

“The Committee is building on the work already in progress, looking at the continued expansion of the National Newborn Bloodspot Screening (NBS) Programme, considering changes to our cancer screening programmes as well as proposals for new programmes. 

“I encourage people to have their say by making submissions, and welcome anyone who has the required expertise to consider applying to join this dynamic Committee.”

The Chair of the NSAC, Professor Niall O’Higgins said: ‘On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank everyone who made a submission to last year’s Annual Call. All submissions are given careful consideration by the Committee and are analysed in accordance with best current scientific evidence. Where proposals are not recommended, they can be reviewed at a later date when new information becomes available

"Our growing work programme now includes evaluation of proposals on cancer and non-cancer conditions, as well as our priority workstream on the expansion of newborn bloodspot screening. 

“We are pleased to launch our next call for submissions, and I encourage people to submit proposals and ideas. The Committee has made three formal recommendations to the Minister, all of which have been approved and implemented, and we expect to make further recommendations in the near future.”

The Committee is supported by a dedicated specialist evidence team in HIQA and has begun looking at the evidence for extending the age range for breast and bowel screening, as well as introduction of a new population-based screening programme for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) in men aged 65 years. A full Health Technology Assessment (HTA) on the addition of a tenth condition to the national NBS programme is nearing completion, and the Committee hopes to make a recommendation to the Minister on this shortly.

Consideration of proposals on cancer screening will be a priority for the Committee in 2023, as a revised Council Recommendation on cancer screening is expected to be formally published by the Council of the European Union in the coming weeks. The NSAC welcomes this important development and will advise the Minister and Department of Health on the updated Recommendation as it applies to Ireland. 

The Committee currently has four vacancies, in the areas of Cancer, Communications/Journalism, Diagnostic Imaging and Medico-Legal fields.Prof O’Higgins said: “While it is obviously a public health responsibility, the success of a health screening programme depends on individual consent.  It is of great importance that screening is understood as a programme designed, supported and driven by public participation and approval. 

"One of the strengths of the NSAC is the diversity of its membership which contributes greatly to its independence and transparency. I hope that anyone who has expertise in cancer policy, public communications, diagnostic imaging or the medico-legal area, and who is interested in contributing to the development of national policy on population-based screening, to apply.”

The NSAC Work Programme and the details of the Annual Call are published on the NSAC website The four vacancies are currently advertised at this link with the closing date for applications of Friday14 January 2023. 


Notes to editor:

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. See for more information. The NSAC Annual Report 2021 is also available on the website.

Previous recommendations to the Minister by NSAC (also available at this link.)

  1. Addition of Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency - Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (ADA-SCID) as the ninth condition to the National Newborn Bloodspot Screening Programme (NNBSP)
  2. Modification of the National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme, to extend the interval between screens from one to two years for people with diabetes who are at low risk of retinopathy.
  3. Modification of the National BowelScreen Programme, to adopt guidelines to ensure that BowelScreen is aligned with current clinical practice across the symptomatic service in the HSE.