Keeping ahead of advances in screening

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The NSU is looking at the latest advances in screening.
The National Screening Unit (NSU) is committed to maintaining the highest possible evidence-based screening quality and standards, and work is underway to investigate the latest advances in several national 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 about current antenatal screening here.

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. The changes are related to a range of improvements to the screening programme that are underway. Read more about quality improvements for newborn hearing screening here.

Cervical screening

The NSU is also looking at a move to human papillomavirus (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 HPV testing here.

What happens next?

NSU will review the evidence about these latest advances from a New Zealand perspective and consult with the health sector before any changes are made. Women and parents of children screened under these programmes can be assured that any changes will bring real benefits and further improve the quality of screening.

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Page last updated: 29 November 2014