The UK National Screening Committee and NHS Screening Programmes have become part of Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health.
Public Health England has been established to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and to reduce inequalities. It will lead on the development of a 21st-century health and wellbeing service, supporting local authorities and the NHS to deliver the greatest possible improvements in public health. It came into being in April 2013. For all corporate information please see www.gov.uk/phe
1. Aims of the programme
The NHS Infectious Diseases in Pregnancy Screening (IDPS) Programme in England is responsible for ensuring that all pregnant women are routinely offered screening for hepatitis B, HIV, syphilis and susceptibility to rubella infection.
This Programme aims to ensure that women with hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis are identified and that women are offered appropriate assessment and management for their health, as well as ensuring that strategies are put in place to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of these conditions. The Programme also aims to identify women who are susceptible to rubella, for whom postnatal MMR vaccination could protect future pregnancies.
A summary of the infections screened for:
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
- Hepatitis B is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is an infectious disease that affects the liver and can result in both acute and chronic infection.
- It is transmitted through infected blood and other body fluids, for example through sexual contact or perinatal transmission from mother-to-baby.
- Screening in pregnancy aims to identify women are hepatitis B positive, in order to prevent mother-to-child transmission in pregnancy and to offer babies at risk of infection a course of vaccine following birth.
- See the UK NSC's Hepatitis B policy
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
- HIV is a retrovirus that infects and damages T-lymphocytes, resulting in immune suppression that eventually leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
- HIV is transmitted through sexual contact, contaminated blood e.g. needle sharing, and transmission from mother-to-child, which can occur in utero, during delivery or through breast feeding.
- All pregnant women are routinely offered screening for HIV infection so that interventions can be offered to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, as well as to safeguard the woman's own health.
- See the UK NSC's HIV policy
- Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection, caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum.
- It is transmitted primarily through sexual contact, but can be transmitted from mother-to-baby during pregnancy. Maternal syphilis infection can result in adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including miscarriage, and stillbirth. If untreated, congenital syphilis can result in physical and neurological impairments affecting the child's bones, teeth, vision and hearing.
- Screening in pregnancy is to identify women with active syphilis and offer treatment for their own infection and to reduce the risks of adverse outcomes for the baby.
- See the UK NSC's Syphilis policy
- Rubella (German Measles) is usually a mild and insignificant infection. However, if acquired in pregnancy, particularly in the first 12 weeks, fetal infection is likely occur and the risk of congenital rubella defects, such as heart defects, cataracts and deafness, are high.
- Screening in pregnancy aims to identify pregnant women who are susceptible to rubella to reduce the risk of congenital rubella in future pregnancies.
- See the UK NSC's Rubella Susceptibility policy
During 2010/11, new Programme and Laboratory Standards were developed and published. The Standards should to be implemented throughout the country from April 2011, and should be embedded in local practice by April 2012.
3. Programme structure and governance
The Deputy Programme Manager is Sharon Webb (nee Hodgkiss). The programme has a responsibility to ensure the programme is operating at consistently high-standards across England and to work in partnership with key stakeholders.
The programme is accountable to the UK NSC's Fetal, Maternal and Child Health (FMCH) Group and the UK NSC Director of Programmes.
Going forward the programme will be supported by a newly formed multidisciplinary Programme Advisory Group and disease specific task groups for HIV, Hepatitis B and Syphilis (see diagram on right). We have recently reviewed and finalised the representation on these groups, which will be listed here shortly.
In addition to the four conditions within the screening programme, the UK NSC has policies covering screening for other infectious diseases in the antenatal period (but for which screening is not currently recommended). Click on one of the following links to see the UK NSC policy position: