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Screening update

21 January, 2014

Screening update

What do midwives need to know following the transition of NHS screening programmes into Public Health England? Joanne Harcombe and Jill Walker of the UK National Screening Committee explain.
Midwives magazine: Issue 1 :: 2014

What do midwives need to know following the transition of NHS screening programmes into Public Health England? Joanne Harcombe and Jill Walker of the UK National Screening Committee explain.

In April 2013, considerable organisational changes took place that affected the way screening programmes – including antenatal and newborn screening programmes – are overseen, quality assured and commissioned.

Public Health England (PHE) was established on 1 April 2013 to bring together health specialists from more than 70 organisations into a single service. Screening is now part of PHE.

In line with national agreements, screening programmes are now commissioned by NHS England and public health advice regarding screening is provided by PHE at local, regional and national levels. This sounds straightforward, but it is important that midwives understand how this works on a daily basis so they know where to go for support regarding the local delivery of screening.

Local delivery: Midwives may not have seen a great deal of difference, as local antenatal and newborn screening and immunisation programmes are still commissioned using the maternity pathway payment system and still require delivery to the highest quality. However, the accountabilities for local commissioning, oversight and scrutiny of the screening programmes have changed with new organisations having new responsibilities.

Area teams:
NHS England is now responsible for the commissioning of screening, immunisation and other public health functions, which they discharge through their area teams (ATs). All ATs have a screening and immunisation team who are PHE staff. These teams provide public health support and advice to NHS colleagues at local level and within the wider ATs’ geographical area. They have close working relationships with screening and immunisation service providers in both primary and secondary care and support quality and service developments, while steering and overseeing screening and immunisation governance processes.

Local authority: Alongside the local director of public health, based in the local authority, representatives from the ATs also sit on new local authority health and wellbeing boards, which are tasked with ensuring all organisations work together to improve the health and wellbeing of people in their area.

Quality assurance teams: Regional PHE antenatal and newborn screening quality assurance (QA) teams are now in place across England. Their role, along with colleagues in cancer screening, is to provide a comprehensive and consistent approach to QA. Following the successful pilot of QA visits, they will soon start formal QA screening programmes, to which midwives will be integral. For more details, visit: screening.nhs.uk/regionalteams
These changes are in line with the PHE priorities and mission ‘to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities’.

Where to go for support
The functions of the former PCT screening lead and regional screening teams have, in effect, been replaced by the screening and immunisation teams within ATs, regional QA teams and public health professionals in local authorities. These teams, and in particular the screening and immunisation teams within an AT, will be working together with midwives to ensure that mothers and babies across the country continue to be offered and receive high-quality antenatal and newborn screening services.

Screening and Immunisation Teams – Who’s Who?

► Screening and immunisation lead:
Consultant in public health providing leadership for the PHE staff within the team
► Screening and immunisation manager:
Responsible for the operational management of the team and ensuring effective coordination and monitoring of screening and immunisation performance
► Screening and immunisation coordinator:
Frontline staff with professional knowledge and skill to enable them to work effectively with screening and immunisation clinicians and service providers.

Source: Immunisation & screening national delivery framework & local operating model (PHE, 2013)

Joanne Harcombe
Education lead, UK NSC

Jill Walker
Newborn and infant physical examination programme manager, UK NSC

► To find out who your local screening and immunisation team is, visit: nhs.uk/servicedirectories/Pages/AreaTeamListing
► To access all UK NSC information and education and training resources (including e-learning modules), visit: cpd.screening.nhs.uk


Public Health England. (2013) Immunisation & screening national delivery framework & local operating model. See: www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/del-frame-local-op-model-130524.pdf (accessed 15 January 2014).

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