Over in the United Kingdom, parents and doctors alike are banding together to help save many babies' lives. Each group is putting their respective differences aside in order to keep more and more babies healthy. How do they want this to happen? By making a certain blood test that's said to be "life-saving" mandatory all over the country.
The blood test in question is known as Pulse oximetry. It's a non-invasive test that's capable of measuring oxygen levels in an infant's blood. This can help discover serious and potentially fatal heart conditions that may have been missed otherwise. Such a tool can be a lifesaver for some babies- something that both doctors and parents don't take lightly.
As of right now, the Pulse oximetry blood test is only available in a limited amount of hospitals. Those specific hospitals can choose to offer this blood test if it's part of their routine screening procedures. Roughly 40 percent of maternity units in the United Kingdom are currently performing it on their babies. By having more hospitals use it, more babies could be treated for heart conditions that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. This is an especially important test because congenital heart disease affects eight in 1000 babies born in the UK.
In a recent statement, however, the UK's National Screening Committee and Public Health England have come out against expanding this blood test. Their arguments against it include excess treatment, false positives, overdiagnosis, and putting unnecessary worries inside a parent's head.
"While pulse oximetry clearly has some benefits in identifying babies with Congenital Heart Disease, as with all national screening [programs], it is vital we also take into account what harm screening all babies may have and whether the benefits outweigh the harms or vice versa," they explained in their statement.
Despite this negative statement, many parents who have had their babies undergo this blood test have voiced nothing but positive thoughts about the issue. Parents who have experienced a negative result or positive result from this test have praised how useful it is. Doctors and professors who have been using this test for many years already also continue to voice their support for it.
The National Screening Committee launched a public consultation as to whether the evidence about the Pulse oximetry blood test is sufficient enough. It will be held until August 9th. Here's hoping that some positive changes come from the public consultation.