News Extra [these Stories Appear Only On The Web]

NHS publicises advances in antenatal and neonatal screening programmes

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 21 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:180
  1. Allison Barrett
  1. BMJ

    The NHS has launched a project to try to ensure that pregnant women are given enough information to be able to make meaningful choices when they are offered screening tests.

    The “Screening Choices” project aims to educate doctors about the screening tests, so that they can better inform their patients. It includes a website and a CD for doctors telling them about which tests should be offered and when. It also addresses communication and discomfort between practitioner and patient.

    Speaking at the launch of the project, Muir Gray, chairman of the NHS Screening Committee, said the most important message that the project wanted to get across was that of sensitivity.

    Dr Gray said that the word screening was often misunderstood. Screening tests, like sieves, had holes, he said. But that was not appreciated.

    “The word screening in the 20th century has come to mean something without any holes,” he said. This has led to litigation in cases where women were given false negative results of screening tests but later gave birth to babies with abnormalities.

    The National Screening Committee is planning to release screening resource cards to midwives. The set of 16 double sided cards covers the major antenatal and blood spot screening programmes, giving their indications and risks.

    More information on screening choices is at

    View Abstract