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Valuable feedback from newborn blood spot failsafe solution (NBSFS) survey

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The PHE newborn blood spot (NBS) screening team held a survey to evaluate the NBS failsafe solution system

The national PHE newborn blood spot screening team recently ran a survey to evaluate the newborn blood spot failsafe solution (NBSFS) system. The system is used to make sure all eligible babies complete blood spot screening.

Thank you to the 100 users across the country who participated in the survey. We’ve already been in touch with some of you to resolve some of the issues you raised.

Here are some of our findings from the survey.

Failsafe statuses

Many of you agreed it would be helpful to see which babies have completed screening without having to open each record individually, to see if results are available. So, we will look into adding another failsafe status, such as ‘screening completed’.

Declined status

Some users are updating failsafe status to ‘declined’ for those babies where the family has declined newborn blood spot (NBS) screening. We recommend that a blood spot card should still be sent to the lab, with the baby’s details completed and ‘declined’ written in the comments box. See section 2.4 of the quick reference sampling guidelines.

Resources section

Some users were not aware that the resources section contains useful links, including:

  • user guide
  • contacts database
  • list of site leads
  • how to add users
  • customer portal
  • record query form
  • release notes – these contain information about the new functions developed in each new release of the failsafe

Days column

The ‘days’ column indicates ‘days since sample taken date’. We asked you whether this column is useful, and many of you felt strongly it was important and should remain.

Records mapped to the wrong maternity site

Many users commented on problems with babies’ records that are mapped to the wrong maternity site (a maternity site that is not responsible for the babies’ blood spot screening). This problem often occurs when more than one maternity site covers a postcode. We’ve raised this issue with IT system provider NEC (previously known as Northgate) which is working with those sites to find a resolution.

If your maternity site has these problems, please contact the NBSFS helpdesk and provide:

  • a few examples of confidential IDs of babies whose records have appeared on your failsafe maternity site
  • details of how frequently this issue happens for your site

Preterm babies and repeat samples

Many of you said it would help:

We are working with NEC to see how this might be incorporated in a future release.

Babies that move in from abroad (mover-in babies)

Babies who move in from abroad do not currently have a record created automatically on NBSFS. We are working with NHS Digital to see how these ‘mover-in’ babies can be automatically moved on to NBSFS.

National search

Many users said they do not always know the NHS number of a baby and it would be helpful if they could do a national search by another field, such as the baby’s date of birth or mother’s NHS number. Unfortunately, due to data protection rules, NBSFS can only perform a national search by a baby’s NHS number.


The NBSFS system produces weekly maternity site reports (see section 1.16 of the maternity operational level agreement), which many said they find helpful for monitoring red flagged babies and auditing repeats.

If you are a member of a maternity team and would like to receive the weekly site report, please contact the NBSFS helpdesk. If you are not a NBSFS user, the helpdesk will ask the maternity site failsafe lead to verify your name and role.

Trust mergers

If your maternity site is planning a merger with another trust or hospital, please inform the NBSFS helpdesk as early as possible so the required changes in NBSFS can be made in time. Please follow the trust merger guidance.

Barcoded labels

You can print barcoded labels from NBSFS. To do this:

  1. Click on the ‘view’ icon to open the baby’s record.
  2. Under ‘demographics’, click ‘print labels’.

We recently updated the ‘output based specification for barcoded labels’. If your barcoded labels need to be verified to make sure they meet the required specification, see section 6 of this document.

Future release

If you have any suggestions about improving the NBSFS system, you can submit a change request form (available within the resources section of NBSFS) to the NBSFS helpdesk.

We always welcome support with user testing before a new version of the failsafe is released. If you could spare a few hours to help us do some testing, please contact the PHE screening helpdesk. The next round of testing will take place in October and November 2021.

PHE Screening blog

The PHE Screening blog provides up to date news from all NHS screening programmes. You can register to receive updates direct to your inbox, so there’s no need to keep checking for new blogs. If you have any questions about this blog article, or about population screening in England, please contact the PHE screening helpdesk.

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