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Alex praises North Tees & Hartlepool NHS for leading the way on pulse oximetry

Alex Cunningham has praised North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust for their forward-thinking approach to the early diagnosis of possible heart problems amongst young children.

The Labour MP for Stockton North recently backed the Children’s Heart Federation’s campaign, calling for all babies to be tested for heart conditions at birth in a bid to help save lives, and wrote to the Chief Executive of the Trust to express his support for the measure.

In his recent response, Alan Foster MBE offered his assurance that the Trust fully supports pulse oximetry screening for newborns to check for possible problems and confirmed that the test has been undertaken for a number of years, having formed part of the Trust’s practice guidelines since 2008.

Pulse oximetry is a quick, painless and cheap test that measures oxygen levels in blood and detects over 90% of life threatening heart defects in newborns.  However, only 1 in 5 hospitals offer the test to all newborns.

Alex said:

“I was delighted to hear that North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is ahead of the curve in testing newborns for possible heart problems, and to receive confirmation that pulse oximetry screening has been a recognised element of the Trust’s guidelines for several years already.

“Every year, around 5,000 babies are born with Congenital Heart Disease.  But only a third are detected before birth, meaning babies with potentially lethal but treatable conditions leave hospital without being diagnosed.

“Delays in diagnosis cause distress, physical harm and can be life-threatening, but the measures put in place by the Trust is minimising the risk of such problems going unnoticed and is helping to save babies lives locally.  The Trust is truly a shining example for all hospitals in the UK on this measure.”

Anne Keatley-Clarke, Chief Executive of CHF said: “We are grateful for Alex’s support for increasing the early detection of heart conditions in babies.  It’s fantastic that the University Hospital of North Tees and Hartlepool is helping to prevent babies in his constituency 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 long-term harm and prevent distress to families.”