The National Screening Unit (NSU) provides health screening programmes in New Zealand.
Screening services during Alert Level 1
Cancer screening programmes are returning to normal under Alert Level 1.
People are being invited for routine breast and cervical screening and those who missed screening appointments during the suspension of services are being contacted by their provider to make a new appointment.
Bowel screening is also restarting and people who received a bowel screening test kit can now complete it and send it back.
New invitations to participate in bowel screening will resume from 11 June 2020. However, anyone concerned about their bowel symptoms should talk to their GP directly and not wait until they receive their test.
The ten DHBs currently delivering bowel screening programmes are providing colonoscopies to bowel screening participants who returned a positive bowel screening test during the COVID-19 restrictions. DHBs are giving priority to people needing urgent investigation and then moving on to people who have had a positive screening test, so there may be a delay before some participants receive their appointment.
Antenatal and newborn screening programmes will continue during the health service response to COVID-19, but with some changes to ensure health staff, women and babies are kept safe.
More information for pregnancy and newborn screening participants is available on the National Screening Unit website.
More information about the changes to cancer screening programmes is available on the Time to Screen website.
About the NSU and screening programmes
The NSU is responsible for the safety, effectiveness and quality of organised screening programmes. It is responsible for national coordination of the following screening programmes.
- National Bowel Screening Programme – screens people for bowel cancer
- 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
- Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme – screens newborn babies for hearing loss
The NSU 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.
Core functions of the National Screening Unit
- 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