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Universal availability of 20 week scans must be a priority – O’Reilly

19 January, 2017 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD today raised the issue of the National Maternity Strategy and the provision of detailed 20 week routine scans for pregnant women, saying that the absence of national guidance for the provision of this created a catch 22 situation and that universal availability must be a priority.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“Between October and December 2016, the HSE changed a PQ response to me on the availability of these scans in Irish hospitals – ‘provided routinely/offered to all patients’ was replaced with ‘available to patients’.

“The change in HSE response would indicate that they are not routinely offered or are provided. It would indicate that they are there and can theoretically be accessed, but what is the procedure to do so? Indeed, consistent in the HSE responses was that there is no national guidance in the provision of routine detailed scans at 20 weeks. This is unacceptable.

“The Programme for Government commits to implementing the national maternity strategy, of which the second strategic priority is the access to safe, high quality, nationally consistent woman-centred maternity care. The reality, however, is a postcode lottery and inconsistencies in the services available. 

“Upon repeatedly querying the Minister and the HSE on the availability of detailed 20 week routine scans for pregnant women, the HSE have confirmed that only 6 of the 19 maternity units in the state have this facility available. And even then, these scans are not routinely provided or offered.

“It is clear from the HSE response that referral for anomaly scans is only made when requested by the medical team based on clinical judgement. This goes against the national maternity strategy priority to have nationally consistent, woman centred care. Women are not being offered this scan or being advised of its availability and only some women will have access to it.

“We have a catch-22 situation in maternity care and the provision of these scans- women need this scan to see if there are any issues or problems with their pregnancies, but they can’t get the scan unless a medical issue has been identified. We have seen harrowing cases where the failure to have this scan has resulted in tragedy and women and their partners being unable to prepare adequately for the birth, most recently in Kerry.

“If the Minister and the Government are serious about the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy, national guidance on the provision of routine detailed scans at 20 weeks must be drawn up as a matter of priority and universal availability of 20 week scans must be a priority. I am calling on the Minister to make a statement on this and to make this a priority for 2017.” 

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