NHS Health Screening
Screening for newborn babies
Your baby will have been given a complete physical check during his first 72 hours. Many of these checks are repeated again at the 8 week check to make sure that all is well with your baby's development.
What happens during the 8 week baby check
Your healthcare professional will explain what the checks are for and will tell you if there is any cause for concern. Your baby will have the following checked:
- head circumference and length
- fontanelle (soft spots on the head)
- mouth and palate
- Heart and lung sounds
- Groin pulses
- abdominal organs and belly button
- genitals (in boys to make sure the testicles have descended)
- feet, spine and hips
- ears and eyes
Diabetic eye screening
From the age of 12, all people with diabetes are offered an annual diabetic eye test to check for early signs of diabetic retinopathy.
What happens during the test
- You'll be asked to read some letters on a chart first.
- Drops are then put in your eyes. These may sting for a few seconds. The drops make your sight blurry after about 15 minutes.
- When the drops start working, you'll be asked to look into a camera. The camera will not touch your eyes.
- Pictures are taken of the back of your eyes. There will be a bright flash when a picture is taken.
Your appointment will usually last about 30 minutes.
Cervical screening is offered to all women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 to check the health of cells in the cervix. It is offered every 3 years for those aged 25 to 49, and every 5 years from the ages of 50 to 64.
Your cervical screening appointment
Your nurse will ask you to lie on an examination bed and give you a new, clean paper sheet to cover the lower half of your body. You can lie:
- on your back with your legs bent up, your ankles together and your knees apart
- on your left side with your knees bent.
Your nurse will let you know when the test is about to start. First, they gently put a new, clean speculum into your vagina. A speculum is usually a plastic cylinder with a round end – sometimes a metal speculum is used. The speculum is the part that some people find uncomfortable.
Once the speculum is inside your vagina, the nurse will gently open it so they can see your cervix.
Then the nurse will use a small, soft brush to quickly take a sample of cells from your cervix. This may feel a bit strange, but should not be painful.
The nurse will put your sample of cells into a small plastic container (vial) of liquid. The liquid preserves the cells so they can be sent to a lab for testing.
And that’s it! The nurse will take the speculum out of your vagina and give you a private space to dress again. They will explain how and when you should get your results.
Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited for NHS breast screening every 3 years between the ages of 50 and 71. You'll get a letter in the post inviting you.
How breast screening is done
Breast screening is usually done by 1 or 2 female mammographers. You can ask them about any questions or concerns you have.
- You'll need to undress, in a private changing area, so you are naked from the waist up. You may be given a hospital gown to put on.
- You'll be called into the X-ray room and the mammographer will explain what will happen.
- The mammographer will place your breast onto the X-ray machine. It will be squeezed between 2 pieces of plastic to keep it still while the X-rays are taken. This takes a few seconds and you need to stay still. Your breast will be taken off of the machine afterwards.
- The X-ray machine will then be tilted to one side and the process will be repeated on the side of your breast.
- Your other breast will be X-rayed in the same way.
- You will then return to the changing area to get dressed.
Your results will be sent to you in the post.
Bowel cancer screening
Everyone aged 60 to 74 years who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit every 2 years.
Make sure your GP practice has your correct address so your kit is posted to the right place.
How to use the home test kit
- Write the date on the sample bottle in biro.
- Use a container or layers of toilet paper to catch your poo.
- Do not let your poo touch the toilet water.
- Twist the cap to open the sample bottle.
- Collect a sample by scraping the stick along the poo until all grooves are covered.
- We only need a little poo to test. Please do not add extra.
- Put the stick back in the bottle and ‘click’ the cap to close it.
- Do not reopen the bottle after use.
- Please wash your hands after use.
- Make sure you have written the date on the sample bottle.
- Put the sample bottle in the return envelope supplied.
- Peel off the tape, and seal the envelope and post.
- Please post your completed kit as soon as possible.
Your test result should be posted to you within 2 weeks of sending off your kit.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening
In England, screening for AAA is offered to men during the year they turn 65.
What happens during AAA screening
When you arrive for your appointment, a screening technician will check your details, explain the scan and ask if you have any questions.
For the scan:
- you lie down on a table and lift up or unbutton your top (you do not need to undress)
- the technician rubs a clear gel on your tummy and moves a small handheld scanner over your skin – pictures from the scanner are shown on a monitor and the technician will measure how wide your aorta is
- the gel is wiped away and you pull down or button up your top
- the technician tells you the result straight away
The whole test usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes.