NHS failing to implement recommended Down Syndrome test

About 60,000 people in the U.K. had the genetic condition Down Syndrome and about 1 in every 1000 babies are born with it.

The U.K. National Screening Committee which advises the NHS has commented that all women should be offered what is known as the combined test. This is taken at 11 to 14 weeks of pregnancy and involves the mother having a blood test and an ultrasound scan.

Writing in the AVMA Medical & Legal Journal, Edwina Rawson comments that despite the fact that the combined test is the most accurate and has been identified for National roll out, 70% of NHS Trusts in England still fail to offer the test. As the standard (rather than combined) test carries a higher rate of false positive results this leads to a larger number of mothers being told they have a high risk of having a baby with Downs. A large proportion of these mothers will then undergoing further invasive investigations which can result in miscarriage.

Edwina Rawson comments that introduction of the combined test would not limit these deaths entirely but it would reduce them significantly. The reasons for Trusts not carrying out the combined test appear to be a mixture of lack of funds and a lack of trained stenographers.

A result of the failure to implement the combined testing will lead to an increase of normal babies ( i.e. without Downs) dying each year as a result of false positives and also cases were a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is missed and the mother is denied the chance of terminating the pregnancy.

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