A recent House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report states that the risks and benefits of participating in screening programmes are not communicated consistently. More standardised processes for screening information and better training for healthcare professionals are required. The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) needs to devise and implement standards for producing information to facilitate informed choice.
“While screening can increase the likelihood of curing, preventing or delaying the progression of disease for some patients, for others it may lead to false results, misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment. More needs to be done to ensure that both the benefits and risks are clearly, and even-handedly, communicated so that people can make an informed choice about whether screening is right for them”.
This report is primarily concerned with screening for conditions and diseases such as cancer, but it may also have relevance to NHS midlife health checks and (just possibly) the dementia case finding debate:
“The NHS Health Check programme – which aims to prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease – was introduced without a rigorous evidence base and was not reviewed by the UK NSC… MPs are concerned that the Health Check programme is wasting resources at time when the NHS can ill-afford to do so and recommend that the UK NSC scrutinise the programme, retrospectively, to ascertain its value”.
Better communication needed in health screening programmes. London: House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, October 29th 2014.