Anomaly scans for all pregnant women ‘a priority’

More specialists needed for greater rollout of ultrasounds, minister says

Minister for Health Simon Harris says it is a priority for his department that pregnant women across Ireland be given access to 20-week scans regardless of their location.

Minister for Health Simon Harris says it is a priority for his department that pregnant women across Ireland be given access to 20-week scans regardless of their location.

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris says it is a priority for his department that pregnant women across Ireland be given access to 20-week scans regardless of their location.

The ultrasounds, usually referred to as anomaly scans as they can detect defects in the organs of an unborn baby including the heart and kidneys, are available across all of the State’s hospital groups but are currently only offered to women attending larger maternity units.

Some women opt to get the scan privately, but when asked by Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth about plans for a wider rollout in the public care sector, Mr Harris indicated a willingness to address the issue.

“The National Maternity Strategy is very clear that all women must have equal access to standardised ultrasound services and, consequently, the issue of anomaly scanning is a priority issue for the newly established HSE National Women and Infants Health Programme (NWIHP),” he said.

“An early priority for the programme will be to develop clinical guidance regarding routine detailed scans at 20 weeks. In the meantime, the NWIHP will continue to work with the six hospital groups to assist in increasing access to anomaly scans for those units with limited availability,” he added.

The minister also mentioned the need to recruit more ultrasonographers in order to enable a greater rollout of the service.

Larger hospitals can accept referrals from other units in cases where scans are deemed necessary, he said.

Campaign groups have consistently called for progress to be made so that all pregnant women can avail of the scans.

In January an Oireachtas health committee heard that some babies are dying because mothers do not have adequate access to ultrasound scans.

UCC professor of obstetrics and consultant gynaecologist Louise Kenny told the committee that less than half of pregnant women in Cork have access to an anomaly scan.