Down’s screening test still unavailable across NHS Wales

A NICE-recommended Down’s syndrome screening test remains unavailable throughout Wales due to the logistical ‘challenges’.

The new test, used to identify abnormal chromosomes that could cause conditions such as Down’s in unborn children, is still not widely available across NHS Wales despite being recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) six years ago.

In 2008, NICE issued guidelines recommending all pregnant women have access to a combined ultrasound and blood test to help identify potential complications in their unborn child, including the risk of Down’s syndrome.

Currently only the health boards in North Wales are offering the screening, with experts calling for a wider implementation of the tests across the county.

Dr Bryan Beattie, foetal medicine consultant at the University of Wales hospitals, expressed his regret that, due to a lack of testing, “some mothers unnecessarily miscarried a healthy baby” after being incorrectly identified as being at risk via the older testing.

“They would not have been wrongly flagged up as high risk if they had had the combined test.”

Health minister Mark Drakeford explained uptake had been slow due to “challenging” logistics associated with the implementation.

“Implementing this screening test is complex,” he said, explaining how the process required more work from midwives and upgraded technology.

“These logistics have taken some health boards time to work through.”

It is believed that the combined test will be available across the whole of Wales by November.