Delays to sickle cell screening affecting choice

Early referral for antenatal sickle cell and thalassaemia is needed to combat delays, claim UK researchers.

Sickle cell and thalassaemia scans should be carried out within the first eight to 10 weeks of pregnancy according to the NHS sickle cell and thalassaemia screening programme.

But a study carried out in London suggests only 4 per cent of women are having the test this early. The findings come from examination of pregnancies cared for at 25 general practices within two London PCTs.

On average, women were not receiving sickle cell and thalassaemia screening until week 15 of gestation.

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 sickle cell and thalassaemia screening.' 

Dr Pippa Oakeshott, from the department of general practice and primary care at St George's Medical School, said the importance of testing needs to be highlighted to GPs.

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