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GPs lack the confidence or knowledge to advise patients on prenatal genetic diagnosis, new primary care research reports.

The survey of 397 Nottinghamshire GPs found only 29.1 per cent were highly confident in giving prenatal advice on cystic fibrosis, and just 18.6 per cent on thalassaemia.

GPs who lacked confidence over cystic fibrosis or thalassaemia had as little or less confidence in counselling for Down's syndrome.

The research, published online by Family Practice last week, also found poor awareness of the importance of rapid referral to prenatal diagnostic services ­ leading to delays or use of inappropriate referral channels.

Study leader Dr Nadeem Qureshi, a clinical lecturer in general practice at the University of Nottingham, said: 'GPs need to be aware that these people have to be referred as soon as possible and through the right channels.'

Dr Qureshi, who is a GP in Nottingham, is working on a web-based learning programme on haemoglobin disorders, which is scheduled to be available in the next few months as part of the Government's Professional Education for Genetic Assessment and Screening programme.

'This should help improve access quickly,' he said.

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