Decision on NHS provision of non-invasive Down's testing due soon

6 January 2016

The UK’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Care Quality, Ben Gummer MP, has said that the recommendation of the National Screening Committee (NSC) on whether or not to routinely offer non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) as part of the standard fetal anomaly screening programme is due ‘very shortly’.

The Minister was responding to a question from Labour MP Tulip Siddiq in the House of Commons yesterday; she said that in her own pregnancy she had been told that there was a risk that her child was affected by Down’s syndrome and was offered a choice between invasive testing on the NHS (with an associated risk of miscarriage) or private NIPT at a cost of £400. She asked what progress had been made by the Department of Health towards expanding access to non-invasive testing to make it equally available to all expectant mothers ‘regardless of wealth’.

The Minister noted that NIPT was not currently routinely available for the detection of chromosomal trisomies such as trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome), although it was available for the detection of ‘genetic changes leading to specific skeletal abnormalities and certain forms of cystic fibrosis. He said that some NHS maternity units did offer NIPT for Down’s syndrome privately and it had been piloted in some NHS trusts, with the recommendation on potential incorporation into routine foetal anomaly screening due soon from the NSC.

However, he said that in principle he agreed that equal NHS access to non-invasive testing was desirable, adding: it lies at the foundation of the NHS and we support it”.

The PHG Foundation provided  strategic implementation planning for the implications of potential NHS provision of NIPT for trisomy screening as part of the RAPID (Reliable Accurate Prenatal non-Invasive Diagnosis) UK research programme funded by the National Institute for Health Research. 

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