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New consensus statement released: How to support parents decision making for prenatal screening

2 December, 2020

Officers from the SoR have been working with the RCOG and RCM on a “Consensus statement from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives, Society and College of Radiographers: Supporting women and their partners through prenatal screening for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a more accurate screening test in pregnancy. It is due to be rolled out on the NHS in England over the next few years, as part of the NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme (FASP). It will be offered to those with a higher chance (1:2 to 1:150) of having a baby with trisomy 13, 18 and 21, determined at the combined or quadruple screening tests. This will apply to both singleton and twin pregnancies.

The document provides advice on education for health care professionals involved in NIPT, particularly relating to the provision of information to gain valid, informed consent and ensure patient choice is respected. Some key highlights include:

  • “NIPT should always be offered by skilled healthcare professionals to make sure that the appropriate information and support is available, both about the test itself and the conditions being screened for.”
  • The importance of education and training for staff, to support them explaining the test, the benefits and limitations and the three conditions screened for.
  • Non-directive methods should be used to explain all available options to parents, with time for parents to make informed decisions.  These decisions should be respected.
  • The need for good quality documentation of any discussions held and decisions made.

The FASP has developed an education and training package which should be completed by all staff involved in NIPT. Regional workshops of “NIPT champions” have been implemented, with cascade training, similar to that provided when the additional heart views were introduced to the FASP. NIPT champions include sonographers but, regardless of who the NIPT champion is, all sonographers involved in the FASP and NIPT need to be trained to provide safe, patient-centred care. There is also a shorter e-learning package that can be used as a refresher.

The document provides information about information and guidance documents that are being developed and signposts health care professionals to relevant charities and organisation who can provide additional support to parents.

Image: JGI / Getty Images

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