Kings Langley mum wins two year battle to roll out newborn heart test

Kings Langley mum wins two year battle to roll out newborn heart test

Kings Langley mum wins two year battle to roll out newborn heart test

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A Kings Langley mum has won a two-year battle to get the NHS to test for heart problems in newborns as a matter of course after her daughter’s condition went undetected for several years.

From the moment Georgina Smith was born, mum Alex could tell something wasn’t right.

Doctors repeatedly failed to spot warning signs of the condition during ante-natal scans and the family were forced to make repeated visits to medics until Georgina was finally diagnosed with Ebsteins Anomaly when she was two-and-a-half.

Had Georgina, now six, been tested with a Pulse Oximeter at birth her condition would have been discovered straight away and the Smith family saved a lot of heartache.

Children's centre play coordinator Alex, 35, said: "For the past two years we have been campaigning for this simple test to be rolled out to all hospitals.

"The Pulse Oximetry test is a simple test that measures the oxygen levels in the baby's blood at birth this picks up 90 percent of babies with a heart condition.

"This test would have picked up Georgina's rare heart condition at birth and would have saved us lots of stress."

Ridgeway Close residents Alex and husband Martin, a photographer, have been campaigning with the Children's Heart Federation for pilot Pulse Oximetry screening on every newborn baby in the maternity ward to test for possible heart or lung problems which may otherwise go undetected. Congenital heart problems are the most common birth defect yet it is not routinely tested for.

Alex explained it is a quick, painless and cheap test which measures oxygen levels in blood and can detect over 90 percent of life threatening heart defects at birth.

Last week Public Health England announced that pilot Pulse Oximetry screening on newborns will be rolled out to all hospitals as soon as possible.

The equipment is already available in every hospital and currently one in five hospitals offer the test to all newborns. The pilot, as recommended by the UK National Screening Committee, will be used to understand the impact of screening on health services for newborns.

Anne Keatley-Clarke, Children's Heart Federation chief executive, said: "Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, yet only a third of these conditions are detected before birth during a mother’s pregnancy scan. 

"This simple test can prevent many babies born with life-threatening conditions from leaving hospital without being diagnosed. Detection at birth means babies can receive treatment early helping to save lives, reduce physical harm and prevent distress to families.

"We look forward to the test being rolled out to all babies as soon as possible following the pilot by the UK National Screening Committee to ensure that no baby needlessly suffers from an undiagnosed heart defect."

Alex added: "Georgina is doing well, she is limited in the physical activities she can do. We are still waiting for her surgery. It's best to wait as long as possible for her to stop growing before they operate. We just take everyday as it comes."

Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning sponsored a special event in Parliament Tuesday, April 29, where Alex and the Children's Heart Federation demonstrated a pulse oximeter to over forty MPs.

Mike Penning added: "The pulse oximeter test is a simple test that could easily be carried out on newborn babies and I am delighted by this news and congratulate Alex on her campaign success."

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