UK campaign to make heart defect monitors available for all newborns
By Dave Higgens, Press Association
A campaign is being launched to make sure all maternity wards across the UK have access to machines which detect heart defects in newborns.
The charity Tiny Tickers says its Test for Tommy campaign is a key part of its mission to ensure that no baby will die from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
The charity says around 1,000 newborn babies leave hospital every year with an undetected condition, leaving them at risk of heart failure and death.
Tiny Tickers said 70 pulse oximetry machines - which cost £725 each - have so far been funded across Yorkshire and the Humber and the East and West Midlands.
It said these are set to benefit more than 105,000 babies each year - around 13% of UK newborns.
Now Tiny Tickers is looking for support to achieve its ambition of covering the whole country with 330 machines by 2021. This would cost a total of around £240,000.
The campaign is named in memory of Natasha Pye's son Tommy, who died at 11 days old in 2015.
Tommy died just days after being released from York Hospital. He was released after an apparently normal birth but despite his parents being concerned about his health.
A post-mortem examination found that he had a birth defect which involved his arteries being the wrong way round - a condition which can be treated with surgery which has a 98% survival rate, the charity said.
An inquest into Tommy's death heard how the hospital had begun to use the monitors since his death.
Ms Pye said: "We now know that Tommy had a congenital heart defect that could be corrected with surgery. If only his condition had been detected, he could be alive today."
Pulse oximetry machines measure the amount of oxygen in a baby's blood, which can indicate heart or respiratory issues. If the reading determines a lower level than expected the baby can be referred for further tests.
Tiny Tickers chief executive Jon Arnold said: "What started with one machine for one hospital - paid for thanks to the generosity of our supporters - has already become one of our biggest projects.
"I know how much this project means to our supporters who have experience of congenital heart disease (CHD).
"I know how much they want this test performed for all newborns, and I'm proud we're helping make that happen. We already know the difference we're making.
"One of the hospitals from our pilot scheme - one of the first to receive a machine - has already been in touch to say a baby's heart condition was spotted following the test, using the machine we funded."
Dr Elspeth Brown, a consultant paediatric and fetal cardiologist who is lead clinician of the Yorkshire and Humber Congenital Heart Disease Network, said: "We really welcome this initiative from Tiny Tickers which will undoubtedly save lives."
According to Tiny Tickers:
- CHD is the most common congenital birth defect and is one of the leading causes of deaths in infants under one year of age
- A baby is born with a serious heart condition every two hours in the UK
- One in every 125 babies is born with a heart problem but only around half of those are spotted during pregnancy
- More than 1,000 newborns leave hospitals in the UK every year with no one realising they have a potentially life threatening heart condition
- Around 3,000 babies under one year old have heart surgery every year in the UK
- Pulse Oximetry testing can detect five out of every six babies who have critical CHD (congenital heart disease) but have been born apparently healthy
- A US study of 27 million births showed that states with a mandatory screening policy had seen a decline of 33.4% in death rates due to critical CHD compared with states without such policies