Sickle cell screening delays deprive couples of choice

Delays in offering antenatal sickle cell and thalassaemia (SCT) screening are depriving couples of reproductive choice, UK researchers have claimed.

The NHS SCT screening programme states that pregnant women should be offered antenatal SCT screening within the first 8-10 weeks of gestation.

But study findings, presented last week at the 36th annual conference for the Society of Primary Care in West London, revealed that only 4 per cent of pregnant women received SCT screening by week 10 of gestation.

For the study, the researchers examined all pregnancies reported in 25 general practices within two London PCTs so that they could investigate whether delays in screening were occurring.

They found that on average, women had to wait until week 15 of gestation to be offered SCT screening.

No association was, however, found between delay times and maternal age or ethnic group.

Lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Dormandy, from the department of psychology at King’s College London, said: ‘Women are being offered the test too late into pregnancy to be given adequate choice.

‘GPs are waiting until the first antenatal appointment rather then the first diagnosis of pregnancy to offer SCT screening.’ 

Dr Pippa Oakeshott, from the department of general practice and primary care at St George’s Medical School, added that the importance of SCT testing should be highlighted to GPs to help reduce the delays.

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