The UK’s leading children’s heart charity is delighted all babies in the UK are set to receive a life-saving test to detect heart conditions at birth.
The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) welcomes the announcement from Public Health England to pilot Pulse Oximetry screening on newborns and hopes testing will be rolled out to all hospitals as soon as possible.This quick, painless and cheap test measures oxygen levels in blood and can detect over 90% of life threatening heart defects at birth.
The equipment is already available in every hospital and currently 1 in 5 hospitals offer the test to all newborns. The pilot, as recommended by the UK National Screening Committee will be used to understand the impact of screening on health services for newborns.
Every year over 5,000 babies in the UK are born with congenital heart disease. Left undiagnosed, these conditions may lead to death or long term physical disability for the child.
Anne Keatley-Clarke, Chief Executive of CHF says: “Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, yet only a third of these conditions are detected before birth during a mother’s pregnancy scan.
“This simple test can prevent many babies born with life-threatening conditions from leaving hospital without being diagnosed. Detection at birth means babies can receive treatment early helping to save lives, reduce physical harm and prevent distress to families.”
“We look forward to the test being rolled out to all babies as soon as possible following the pilot by the UK National Screening Committee to ensure that no baby needlessly suffers from an undiagnosed heart defect”.
Mother Kirsty Patience who nearly lost her new-born son Alex to a heart condition has been campaigning for all babies to be tested at birth.
Her son Alex was born with a heart condition which several doctors failed to diagnose. It was only when baby Alex’s heart stopped a week later that he had the Pulse Oximetry test, and was eventually diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Alex had to undergo life-saving emergency surgery at just 13 days old.
Kirsty Patience said: “When Alex was born, all seemed to be perfectly fine, and he was a normal, healthy baby. When I took him home I grew concerned as he never cried, he slept all the time, and wasn’t feeding at all.
“I called the doctor but he just told me not to worry, and it was normal for him to be like this. Thankfully I didn’t believe him and my husband and I jumped into the car and took Alex to A&E.
“I nearly lost my baby and this could have been prevented by just one simple test when he was born.”
For more information on the Children’s Heart Federation’s Pulse Oximetry campaign visit www.chfed.org.uk/pulseox