The Yorkshire Times - "Give Vital Screening Test To All Babies" Says Children's Heart Charity

Pulse Oximetry is a test carried out using a small device which measures the oxygen levels in the blood. Currently some mothers receive this test after childbirth, but their children do not necessarily receive the test as well. This is despite an overwhelming amount of evidence which points to the possible benefits of doing the test on newborns; primarily increasing early diagnosis of critical heart conditions but also picking up other problems such as respiratory disorders and infections.

A strong parent led-campaign has been pushing for the universal introduction of the test for all newborns. The NHS National Screening Committee is meeting in March to discus whether the screening test should be introduced nationally.
The Children’s Heart Federation, the UK’s national children’s heart charity has long been calling for the change based on the strong views of parents, high number of children whose heart condition goes undiagnosed and the weight of evidence about the effectiveness of the test.

Anne Keatley-Clarke said, “Huge numbers have been involved in the campaign so far. The evidence is there about the effectiveness of the test. Other countries like the US have recognised the benefits and are leading the way having recommended the adoption of the test. It’s now time that all babies in this country are able to receive the test after birth”.

“Parents contact us everyday asking what can be done to get this test introduced across the country. They just can’t understand why it’s not a ‘standard test’ and we call on the NHS to listen to the overwhelming voices of support for this test”.

Michelle Eastwood, a mum of a child who had his heart condition detected through Pulse Oximetry testing said, “My son Sam was born at Birmingham Women’s Hospital and they were trialling the Pulse Ox test at that time. Sam’s lips were blue and he wasn’t feeding properly, yet despite me telling the nurses this I was told that it was the lights in the hospital. However because he had repeatedly failed the Pulse Ox test he was quickly taken to Birmingham Children’s hospital where he undertook life saving surgery at just 3 days old”.

“Without this, I could have quite easily taken him home and his prognosis would have been very different. I’m so grateful his condition was picked up and dealt with very quickly. It is such a simple test, it doesn’t hurt your baby, it can be done at the time of the other newborn checks too”.

“Now Sam’s four and a half and he’s at school full-time, he has no problems with his heart but still requires annual check ups. He’s a perfectly healthy little boy who enjoys every aspect of life. Pulse ox is partly to thank for that, it’s as simple as that. It helped save his life”

Dr Andrew Ewer, from the University of Birmingham, who has conducted extensive research into the test commented, “There is no doubt that Pulse Ox will identify babies with life-threatening, critical heart defects that would otherwise be missed by existing screening methods such as ultrasound and examination. The test is not perfect; our research shows it will detect about 75% of the critical defects, however when used in addition to other screening methods, between 85-95% will be detected before the babies become seriously unwell. Sadly, babies in the UK still die from undiagnosed defects and this test will help identify them sooner giving them the best chance for life-saving surgery. Pulse Oximetry is gaining increasing support among doctors caring for babies with around 1 in 5 hospitals now already offering the test”.


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