Labour MP Tulip Siddiq is calling for a non-invasive test to be made available through the NHS
Published: 26 January, 2016
by TULIP SIDDIQ
I THOUGHT fighting the most marginal seat in the country was tough, but that was nothing compared to the early stages of my pregnancy.
In the first few weeks I was repeatedly told that one in six women have miscarriages, so I had to be “prepared”. As time went on, every appointment seemed to present another risk or a different problem. It hasn’t been an easy pregnancy but I always remind myself that it will be worth it in the end.
When I reached my 14-week scan, I was told my baby might be developing Down’s syndrome. The doctors asked whether I wanted to undertake further procedures.
I thought long and hard and I decided that I did want to know whether my daughter would have Down’s syndrome. The reason I wanted to know is because bringing a new person into our world is a responsibility as well as a joy – preparation matters.
I already need to think about maternity leave, childcare arrangements, a space for the baby in a crowded London flat, and my husband’s working hours. If my daughter is born with a genetic condition, I hope I will be a better mother by understanding the range of needs she might have and making preparations, both psychological and pragmatic, for welcoming her into our family.
The doctors gave a choice of two procedures to establish my baby’s health. The first, the amniocentesis test, was free on the NHS but carried a risk of miscarriage – already a risk that concerned me as an “older mother” (their words, not mine). The second was a non-invasive, 99 per cent accurate test with no risk to my baby’s life, but would cost £400.
The test results came back negative and I have since campaigned to have the non-invasive test made free of charge on the NHS. I was lucky that I could afford it and my belief is that we should have an NHS that strives for medical advances to be made available to all, perhaps even more so for procedures that inform decisions and potentially affect quality of life over many decades. It is for that reason that I was pleased to see a positive conclusion with the National Screening Committee’s recommendation to introduce the non-invasive test, free of charge on the NHS.
Back in Parliament, and through my conversations with ministers and the Department of Health, it was extremely pleasing to see the degree of cross-bench support for introducing the non-invasive test. Medical recommendations are rarely a political issue, but it was still comforting to find common cause among those I often disagree with on other matters.
The Camden New Journal and the Sunday Times, among others, deserve praise for highlighting the ongoing campaign for access to this test. As I have done before, I will continue to fight for a fairer, safer, better-funded NHS, on many other topics as well as this one.
• Tulip Siddiq is the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.