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Pregnancy: Screening

Question for Department of Health

UIN HL3715, tabled on 30 November 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Prior of Brampton on 22 November (HL3127), how the UK National Screening Committee, in making its recommendation on 15 January that non-invasive prenatal testing be approved, formally considered the write up from the roundtable discussion held by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics on 18 January.

Answered on

12 December 2016

At its 19 November 2015 meeting, the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) recommended that non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) for Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes should be introduced as an additional test into the NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme as part of an evaluation. The UK NSC held a three month public consultation on the GOV.UK website before making its recommendation. At its meeting in November 2015, the UK NSC reviewed all the responses to the consultation, including the ethical concerns raised before making its recommendation.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCOB) subsequently convened a roundtable in January 2016 to discuss clinical, ethical, social, legal and policy issues raised by recent developments in wider non-invasive prenatal diagnosis, testing and screening. The meeting was attended by 31 people, including healthcare professionals, academic researchers, policy makers, representatives of charities and patient groups, as well as members and officers of the UK NSC, including its ethicist.

Following the roundtable, the NCOB set up a working group in March 2016 to consider the ethical issues that would be raised by introducing NIPT into the National Health Service antenatal screening programme.

The UK NSC formally considered the NCOB’s write up of the roundtable at its meeting on 15 June 2016. In accordance with its terms of reference and as part of the ongoing evaluation the UK NSC will consider any significant new peer reviewed evidence, so will consider the report from the NCOB alongside any other new evidence when it becomes available.