Pulse Oximetry Screening Consultation Open Now

| 15th July, 2019

Consultation on introduction of Pulse Oximetry.

The National Screening Committee (NSC) have been reviewing the introduction of Pulse Oximetry screening over the past few years and have recently made a decision against recommending it be introduced across the UK.

This is despite pulse oximetry screening being a safe, painless and simple test that is performed on babies before discharge from hospital and has shown, in research studies involving almost half a million babies, to identify consistently babies with life-threatening heart defects before they become seriously unwell.

The NSC’s decision is also inconsistent with the recommendations of a group of senior Neonatologists and experts in public health in screening, which concluded that most babies who tested positive and were admitted to a Neonatal Unit will benefit, whether the test indicates a heart problem, breathing problem or infection.

Currently pulse oximetry screening is implemented across the UK on an ad-hoc basis meaning parents face a post-code lottery when it comes to availability, with only 40% of maternity units using this test.

In 2014 we first campaigned for the introduction of pulse oximetry in every maternity unit in Northern Ireland to ensure every baby born here had equal access to this test.  We succeeded in getting a motion passed in the NI Assembly which called on the Minister of Health to ‘introduce pulse oximetry to screen all new-borns for early detection of life threatening congenital heart defects.’  The Health Minister at the time responded he would be awaiting the evaluation of the NSC study and recommendations before making a policy decision on this for Northern Ireland.

Although we currently have no sitting Assembly in N.Ireland, we can respond to this consultation and highlight the importance of pulse oximetry screening to improving a baby’s chances of survival and long term quality of life, with the aim of the NSC reversing this decision.   This will provide us with a really strong case to put to the Department of Health in the absence of an Assembly.

The Research team at the University of Birmingham have set out detailed and researched arguments in support of the introduction of this screening, and how to respond to the consultation at www.birmingham.ac.uk/pulseox-screening

The NSC’s consultation response form is difficult to follow, so we recommend sending an email with your points and personal experiences to [email protected].

The closing date for the consultation is 9 August 2019.  Please do take time  to respond – as heart parents and families your personal experiences and responses can make a real difference to consultations like this.  You can contact us at CHT if you have any questions on 028 9031 2228.


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If you would like to speak to other parents from Northern Ireland that have been in your position and can offer some non-medical advice.

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