National prenatal screening contract renewed with University

Public Health England (PHE) has renewed its contract with the University of Plymouth to provide the Down’s syndrome screening Quality Assurance Support Service (DQASS) for its Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes antenatal screening programme in England.

The service has been run by staff in the Medical Statistics group in the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry since it began in 2006, initially with the Department of Health and then Public Health England. The DQASS team, headed up by the lead statisticians Dr Amy Baker from the University of Plymouth and Professor Dave Wright at PHE, will be celebrating 12 years in operation later this year.

DQASS provides an independent audit of laboratory and ultrasound data. The primary aim is to improve the screening results of Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes by supporting and assisting local screening programmes. This is achieved by monitoring practice and, where necessary, providing advice, feedback and support to make improvements in collaboration with the NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme (FASP) and PHE screening quality assurance service. The service is also provided to NHS Scotland and NHS Wales under the same contract.

All laboratories that contribute to the NHS screening programmes for the three chromosomal anomalies must submit data to DQASS on a six-monthly cycle for analysis. Currently the DQASS team provides analyses and feedback to 22 laboratories, approximately 200 NHS hospitals and over 2,500 individual sonographers across the UK. Feedback is also provided to a variety of stakeholders including NHS trust chief executives, PHE regional screening quality assurance services and NHS England Screening and Immunisation Leads.

The Medical Statistics group in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry is led by Siobhan Creanor, Associate Professor in Clinical Trials and Medical Statistics and Director of the Plymouth University UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) registered Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit.

She said: 

“We are delighted to have again retained this contract with PHE. Ensuring that the prenatal screening offered is consistent across the country, and conforms to the standards set out by NHS FASP, is very important for women considering their screening options. The work that DQASS performs means that women are provided with high quality information enabling them to make informed choices about their screening decisions and pregnancy options.”

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