Report highlights shortfall in baby hearing tests

PUBLISHED: 13:00 25 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:46 06 May 2010

SCREENING for hearing problems in newborn babies locally was the poorest in the country last year. A report just published reveals that the West Herts Primary Care Trust (PCT) only screened 54 per cent of babies within a month of their life – far below t

SCREENING for hearing problems in newborn babies locally was the poorest in the country last year.

A report just published reveals that the West Herts Primary Care Trust (PCT) only screened 54 per cent of babies within a month of their life - far below the Government's target of 98 per cent.

Since March 2006 all newborn babies are supposed to be offered a test under the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, which produced the report highlighting the shortfalls.

The East of England as a whole was also found to be a poorly-performing region with only eight of the 14 PCTs reaching Government targets.

Late diagnosis in cases of deafness is proven to cause delay in language development.

Sarah Bierton, the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) regional director for the East of England, said: "The NHS must take action to ensure that all newborn babies throughout the East of England benefit from screening and the appropriate aftercare. Where standards and targets are not being met, NDCS is calling for every PCT and hospital trust chief executive to commit to improving the performance of their screen programme and to work with neighbouring PCTs to provide a better co-ordinated, consistent approach across the region."

She acknowledged that West Herts PCT was taking steps to improve the effectiveness of screening and added: "Where screening works well there is joined-up working between screening and audiology services, effective local programme co-ordinators, high levels of staff retention, robust mechanisms in place to target missed babies and a commitment from senior management to adequately resource and support the programme within local hospital infrastructures and commissioning processes. Every programme should be working towards this model, to ensure that no deaf babies and their families are being let down."

A spokesperson for West Herts PCT said that the data for the report was compiled almost a year ago and over the summer the trust averaged more than 95 per cent of babies being tested within the nationally agreed times.

She added: "We take the care of newly-born children very seriously, including making sure newborn babies have access to hearing tests.

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