Scores of women are not getting the ‘best’ Down’s syndrome test according to Dr Anne Mackie, head of NHS screening programmes.
The ‘combined test’ for Down’s syndrome is the most accurate of the four methods to calculate a woman’s chances of having a child with Down’s syndrome. And according to Dr Mackie, only one in three hospitals in England offer the combined test.
Dr Mackie went on to say that 70% of hospitals in England still use tests that are more likely to give a ‘false positive’ assessing women wrongly as at high risk.
She blamed the problem on a lack of sonographers, who perform the ultrasound scans. The reason, she said, is not a lack of money but a high burnout rate and the fact that sonographers are not recognised as a separate profession, many start as radiographers making it an unappealing career choice.
The combined test was introduced by the NHS 10 years ago and declared the best method for Down’s syndrome testing in 2003, but it is still only available in parts of London, the south east, south west and the Midlands.
Dr Mackie said, “Combined testing is the best. It produces the most accurate results.”