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Update on NIPT implementation — microarray testing technology and twins

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme
Unborn baby showing a strand of DNA coming out from it.
NIPT involves measuring DNA (genetic material) from the baby's placenta in the woman's blood

We have previously published a number of blogs about non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). Here we provide an update on next steps.

You will remember

The government approved the introduction of an evaluative roll out of NIPT based on a recommendation by the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC).

NIPT for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome will be offered to all pregnant women whose chance of having a baby with one of these conditions is greater than 1 in 150 from an initial combined or quadruple screening test.

NIPT will be introduced as an evaluative roll out, which means we will monitor how NIPT is working at each stage of the screening pathway and make any changes required in real time.

New developments

The original evidence review by the University of Warwick was recently re-considered by the UK NSC. An updated review was necessary as genomics is a fast-moving area and we were aware that new technologies are now available which were not when the evidence was first considered. The UK NSC has published the minutes from their meeting in February 2019.

The UK NSC agreed that:

  • another type of technology (microarray) could be used as well as next generation sequencing (NGS) in the laboratory procurement for the offer of  NIPT as an additional option on the FASP screening pathway
  • NIPT could be offered in twin pregnancies as part of the evaluative roll out

Procurement of laboratory services

Given the above developments, NHS England, following discussion with Public Health England Screening, has decided to cancel the existing procurement and will put in place new plans to procure laboratory services for NIPT in line with the latest evidence considered by the UK NSC.

Ongoing work

We have 4 sub-groups covering data collection, clinical and laboratory issues, information and education, and procurement that will continue to plan the introduction of the evaluative roll out of NIPT.

The sub groups report to a project group that provides oversight of all the work. Its membership includes:

  • doctors and midwives
  • commissioners
  • educationalists
  • representatives of parent and support groups
  • PHE Screening staff

In partnership with NHS colleagues and other stakeholders, we will make sure we have the necessary resources to support the addition of use of microarray and offer of NIPT to women with twin pregnancies. This will include updating:

  • education and training resources for health care professionals including additional face to face training for screening coordinators
  • information for public and professionals
  • clinical guidance

Further updates

We will share further information on the plans for procurement and progress for the evaluative roll-out of NIPT via the PHE Screening blog.

We are planning a series of regular blogs to provide more details as they become available.

This information will be relevant to any health professional directly or indirectly involved in any part of the Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome screening pathway, so please ensure that you and your colleagues are signed up to the blog.

Do have a look back at previous NIPT-related blogs to read more about what NIPT is, how it works, why the recommendation was made and what this means for the women who choose to have screening.

PHE Screening blogs

PHE Screening blogs provide up to date news from all NHS screening programmes. You can register to receive updates direct to your inbox, so there’s no need to keep checking for new blogs. If you have any questions about this blog article, or about population screening in England, please contact the PHE screening helpdesk.

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