Sickle cell and thalassaemia screening

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What is screening?

Screening is the process by which a quick and simple blood sample is taken. Blood tests can also be carried out at any age to check for if you're a carrier of the Sickle Cell or Thalassaemia gene. 

The NHS Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia (SCT) screening programme is a genetic screening programme. This means that it also identifies people who are genetic carriers for sickle cell, thalassaemia and other haemoglobin disorders.


If 2 people who are carriers have a baby together, there is an increased risk that their baby could inherit a haemoglobin disorder.


SCT screening is also offered as part of antenatal and new born:

  • All pregnant women
  • Fathers-to-be, where antenatal screening shows the mother is a genetic carrier
  • All new born babies

The heel prick test detects babies with Sickle Cell disorder so they can receive prompt treatment. This procedure also identifies babies who are genetic carriers for sickle cell.


The NHS does not recommend new-born screening for thalassaemia because the test is not sufficiently reliable and there is no immediate treatment for babies with thalassaemia.

However, the new-born blood spot test does detect the most serious form of thalassaemia, beta thalassaemia major. It does not detect babies who are thalassaemia carriers.

Resources

Screening Information for Fathers (pdf)

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Information for Couples at Risk of Having a Child with Sickle Cell (pdf)

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Information for Couples at Risk of Having a Child with Thalassaemia (pdf)

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