The National Screening Unit (NSU) provides health screening programmes in New Zealand.
Within the National Health Board, National Services Purchasing group of the Ministry of Health, the Unit is responsible for the safety, effectiveness and quality of organised screening programmes. The Unit is currently responsible for the national coordination of five screening programmes:
- BreastScreen Aotearoa – screens women for breast cancer
- National Cervical Screening Programme – screens women for abnormal changes to cells on the cervix
- Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme – screens newborn babies for certain metabolic disorders
- Antenatal HIV Screening Programme – screens pregnant women for HIV to reduce the chances of HIV being passed to the baby
- Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme – screens newborn babies for hearing loss
The National Screening Unit is also responsible for introducing the quality improvement measures for antenatal screening for Down syndrome and other conditions.
The NSU monitors the quality of screening programmes, and works with expert groups to make sure each screening programme is based on the latest evidence and meets high standards. The NSU also advises the Government on other potential programmes.
The core functions of the National Screening Unit include:
- national coordination, leadership, and advice to government regarding screening
- ensuring obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi are met
- research and development including evaluation of new evidence related to screening and evidence-based appraisal of technological advances in screening
- developing frameworks, policies and standards
- monitoring performance and evaluating screening services
- coordinating, leading and developing a screening workforce
- administering legislation related to screening programmes
- identifying under-screened groups and developing effective strategies to improve their participation.