§ Dr. Roger Thomas
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the variation throughout Great Britain of the availability of access for screening for neural tube defects of the foetus and in the light of Professor Black's working group's recommendations, if he will take steps to make such facilities for early detection of abnormalities more evenly and universally available.
§ Dr. Vaughan
No. The introduction of a screening programme is a matter for each individual health authority to determine in the light of its assessment of needs and priorities and of the resources available to it. We have endorsed the working group's general conclusions that rapid progress towards a national screening service may be unwise in view of some remaining uncertainties about safety and effectiveness and of the costs entailed. The report indicated that an increasing number of health authorities are providing a routine screening service—46 per cent. of area health authorities in January 1979 compared with 32 per cent. in April 1978—and more recently North-East Thames regional health authority announced the launching of a regional programme.