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NHS newborn hearing screening: 11 million babies and counting

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The NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP) has reached another major milestone, having now screened 11 million babies.

The programme has played a major role in identifying moderate to profound hearing loss in newborn babies in England. One to two babies in every 1,000 are born with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears, which can significantly affect a baby’s development.

Before the introduction of the programme, half of children with moderate to profound hearing loss were not identified until they were 18 months old and a quarter were not identified by three and a half years of age. Early identification provides a better chance of children developing language, speech, and communication skills. It gives these babies the opportunity to make the most of social and emotional interaction with their family and has a positive effect on their social and emotional development.

More than 22,000 babies have been diagnosed with a moderate or worse hearing loss thanks to the screening programme.

Praise and recognition for local providers

Local screening services continue to look at ways to build upon a high-quality service with a family-friendly approach. The views of parents, along with staff training and development, are fundamental in achieving this.

Jane Leggett, manager of the newborn hearing screening service in Crewe, recently undertook a confidential parent satisfaction survey relating to their hearing screening experience, to monitor the quality of the service. A total of 146 parents responded from the 200 contacted.

The findings were very positive. Overall parents rated their experience very good. Comments included:

The screener was lovely. She treated my baby girl with such tenderness and explained everything to me.

The screener managed to see us while we were at the hospital for our baby’s blood spot test so that helped to reduce the number of trips to hospital. They went above and beyond and were fabulous throughout.

Award winners: from left, Leicester NHSP team members Lisa Carter, assistant manager, Debbie Peet, head of medical physics, and manager Donna Riley

Another high quality local newborn hearing screening service is the one in Leicester, where a ‘back to basics’ approach saw it win the ‘Driving improvement, delivering results’ category at the national Advancing Healthcare Awards.

Leicester programme manager Donna Riley said:

We were really pleased to be recognised with this award. Our desire to make improvements started in 2014 when it became apparent there was a variation in our screening performance.

We found that our number of repeat screens and referrals to audiology were above the expected levels, which lead to increased parental anxiety and more visits to hospital for families with associated cost of travel, parking and arranging care for siblings.

Our back to basics approach for the screening team included education, training, reflection, consideration of the screening environment, observation and regular feedback on response rates. We quickly saw a significant increase in the number of babies who completed the screen at the first screening test.

The whole team has been engaged in the process and can see the improvements they’ve made, so are really keen to keep it up. We were delighted that our team approach received such a high recognition.

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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