Prenatal test trialled at Great Ormond Street Hospital to be made part of NHS maternity care in England

1 Nov 2016, 10:30 a.m.

Test tubes on a revolving plate in a lab

A  safer pre-natal screening test pioneered at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is to form part of NHS maternity care across England from 2018.

The new test for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome is a maternal blood test that checks for DNA fragments of these chromosomal syndromes which occur in around 1 in 150 pregnancies.

Every year current tests, such as amniocentesis, are offered to around 10,000 women who have an increased chance of having a baby with one of these syndromes. These invasive tests require a small cell sample to be taken from amniotic fluid, a process that carries a small chance of miscarriage.

Research shows that the introduction of the new test could result in a fall in the number of women undergoing invasive testing each year. This means that there could be a reduction in the number of miscarriages related to these invasive diagnostic tests.

All pregnant women and their families are provided with support and information to help them make informed choices about their pregnancies and the new test will be rolled-out gradually over an initial three-year period alongside a programme of staff training.

Professor Lyn Chitty of GOSH, an expert in clinical genetics, foetal medicine and prenatal diagnosis worked on the trials of the test. Professor Chitty said: “I am very pleased that the Department of Health has decided to make non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) available as part of NHS maternity care in England. The staged roll-out will be important in allowing us to train all health professionals involved in delivering this new service, to ensure parents have as much information as possible upon which to base decisions about their pregnancy, and to support them in those decisions.”

Health Minister Philip Dunne said: “We want women to be able to access the safest screening tests available, so based on the clinical evidence, we have approved the use of a new non-invasive prenatal test for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome. By offering non-invasive prenatal testing, fewer pregnant women will go on to be offered diagnostic testing which carries a risk of miscarriage.”

Please go to or consult your midwife or obstetrician for further information about NIPT.