Keeping ahead of advances in screening

Saturday, June 7, 2014 - 09:34

Work is under way on investigating the latest advances in several national screening programmes.

The National Screening Unit (NSU) is committed to maintaining the highest possible screening quality and standards and proactively looks for new technologies and practices.

Options are currently being explored for the antenatal, newborn hearing and cervical screening programmes.

Antenatal screening

For antenatal screening for Down syndrome and other conditions, the role of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) is being considered.

NIPT involves testing the small amounts of foetal DNA circulating in maternal blood. Research indicates NIPT is more accurate than current methods, which would reduce the number of women offered more invasive diagnostic tests.

Read more (link to come) about current antenatal screening.

Newborn hearing screening

Following an independent review, the newborn hearing screening programme is being simplified. The review recommended implementing a single screening test, rather than the current two, and standardising the equipment used.

These changes should mean more sensitive screening and earlier detection of hearing loss in newborns, while reducing the inconvenience of outpatient appointments for families. They are related to a range of improvements to the screening programme that are under way.

Read more (link to come) about quality improvements for the newborn hearing screening programme.

Cervical screening

The NSU is also looking at a move to HPV primary screening for cervical screening.

HPV primary screening is a slightly different way of the laboratory examining cervical screening tests. What happens at a cervical screening appointment won’t change, but as HPV screening is likely to perform better it may mean women do not need to be screened as often as every three years.

Read more about current cervical screening.

What happens next

We will be reviewing the evidence from a New Zealand perspective and consulting with the sector before we make any changes. Parents and women under these programmes can be assured that any changes will bring real benefits and further improve the quality of screening.

Page last updated: 07 July 2014