British government revamps screening policy

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 05 February 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:357
  1. R Smith
  1. BMJ.

    The British government has announced its policy for introducing new screening programmes and the steps it will take to improve existing ones. The announcements last week follow several highly publicised failures in the cervical screening programme and were made by Ken Calman, the chief medical officer, at a conference organised by the BMJ and the Journal of Medical Screening.

    “We have seen in the past,” said Dr Calman, “screening tests creeping into the health service in a piecemeal and uncoordinated fashion and without quality assurance. Cervical screening has been part of the NHS services since the 1960s but was implemented in an ad hoc fashion without the basis of solid research evidence, leading to variations in local practice.” Dr Calman said that screening for hearing loss in young children was another programme that needed review.

    Screening currently costs the NHS pounds sterling 300m-400m ($450m-600m) a year, and a new programme should be introduced only, said Dr Calman, if research has shown it to be effective and affordable. The government has …

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