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Protecting pregnant women from pre-eclampsia

Posted: 25th August 2021

A blood test which identifies pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, a condition that is potentially life- threatening if not diagnosed and closely monitored, is being supported and spread across the region by the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).

The AHSN has supported seven trusts in the region to implement Placental Growth Factor testing (PlGF). Pre-eclampsia affects women usually during the second half of pregnancy. It causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The development of the condition is varied and has historically been difficult to definitively identify or rule out.

The test eliminates the risk of poor prediction of pre-eclampsia and reduces the risk of unnecessary hospitalisation for women who will not go on to develop the condition. This creates the potential to free up hospital beds and provides both an improved patient experience and wellbeing and financial benefit for the NHS.

Placental Growth Factor testing is one of the innovations advocated by the NHS’ new MedTech Mandate Funding Policy which has replaced the Innovation Technology Payment Programme. It’s supported by the AHSN Network and its aim is to accelerate the spread and adoption of proven and affordable innovations across the country.

Supporting trusts to implement the test has meant that 1,118 women in Yorkshire and Humber have been safely discharged from hospital without the need to be admitted.

Rebecca Sanderson has been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia in previous pregnancies. During her third pregnancy she was offered the blood test to rule out the condition. She gave birth to a baby girl, Delilah, in June. She said:

“In my first two pregnancies I constantly in and out of hospital as I had high blood pressure and protein in my urine, and with my first, I was eventually diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. The frequent monitoring and sometimes long stays in hospital waiting for results meant I had a lot of disruption to my home and work life. During my recent pregnancy I was some of the symptoms associated with pre-eclampsia again – high blood pressure, headaches, protein in the urine- but this time I had a simple and quick blood test. The test showed that I didn’t need to be admitted to hospital and I was able to go home and be with my family, with the peace of mind that I was okay.”

Toni Brunt, PlGF Midwifery Lead at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Pre-eclampsia is a complex condition that can be challenging to diagnose, so it is fantastic that we are able to offer the PlGF test which can successfully rule out the condition and provide peace of mind for women and their families.

“The ability to identify those women that have not developed pre-eclampsia avoids unnecessary interventions and admissions and allows them to return home safely. This in turn allows more focussed care on the women that have developed (or are at high risk of developing) the condition, to ensure an appropriate care plan is in place to keep mum and baby safe.

“In addition to reassuring mothers and their families, the test helps reduce workload pressures within the maternity service by increasing capacity within inpatient areas and freeing up outpatient appointments, so that care can be targeted to mothers that do require closer surveillance.

“We are delighted that we can offer this test to the women in our care within Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals, and we are proud to be amidst plans for providing the test on behalf of other trusts so that more women can benefit from this important service.”

Harriet Smith, Programme Manager for the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN said: “Our involvement in the spread and adoption of the PlGF testing has helped seven trusts across the region introduce this significant pathway improvement.

“We believe this has saved up to £1.8m* of costs in bed days during the last financial year. It is hoped that with the help of the AHSN, all other trusts within the region will also commit to adopting this test –ensuring that no matter where a pregnant woman lives within the Yorkshire and Humber region, she will have the same access to this test, and receive that same level of security and reassurance.”

Find out more in our case study video below.