Newborn screening

During the first few weeks after your baby is born, they will be offered a blood spot screening test and hearing screening test. These tests form the Northern Ireland Newborn Screening Programmes.

Guidance for pregnant women and information on what is happening in their regional unit during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can be found on NI Maternity

Newborn hearing screening

Newborn blood spot screening will continue throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

About 1 in every 1,000 babies is born with a significant hearing loss.  The aim of the screening programme is to reduce the effects of permanent childhood hearing impairment on the development of speech and communication skills, through early diagnosis and treatment.

A baby having its hearing tested as part of newborn screening The screening test involves placing a small, soft tipped earpiece in the outer part of a baby’s ear to send clicking sounds to the inner ear.  Using a computer, the person carrying out the test can see how the baby’s inner ear responds to sound.  If normal responses are not found, the infant is referred to audiology services for diagnostic tests and further follow up.

The priority for the newborn hearing screening programme, at present, will be to maximise the numbers of babies who complete newborn hearing screening prior to discharge from hospital. 

Routine outpatient appointments, for the purposes of completing newborn hearing screening, have been temporarily paused at this time as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Those babies who are unable to complete screening at present will be offered screening at a later date.

Those with parental responsibility should note that, at present, the optimum time to participate in, and complete newborn hearing screening, is prior to discharge from the maternity unit.

If you or your baby are being tested, or have tested positive, for Covid-19 or have symptoms associated with the virus, hearing screening will be deferred and you will be offered screening at a later date.

You should continue to be vigilant and check your baby’s hearing, as they grow up, using the checklist contained in the Personal Child Health Record (‘PCHR / red book’).  Any concerns about your baby’s hearing should be discussed with your health visitor or GP.

Further information can be found at the NI Maternity and Parenting website and the Public Health Agency website.

Further information is also available in the programme leaflets:

Newborn blood spot screening

Newborn blood spot screening will continue throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.  However, there have been some changes made to how you receive postnatal care.  You may be asked to take your baby into your local health centre or clinic for blood spot screening.  This will depend on what Trust you are from. Your midwife will discuss this with you.

Additional advice on COVID-19 for pregnant women and parents in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Maternity website.

In the first week after birth, all babies in Northern Ireland are offered screening for a range of inherited conditions including:

  • phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • congenital hypothyroidism (CHT)
  • cystic fibrosis (CF)
  • medium chain acyl coA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD)
  • sickle cell disorders (SCD)

From March 2020 this will also include the offer of screening for:

  • maple syrup urine disease (MSUD)
  • isovaleric acidaemia (IVA)
  • glutaric aciduria type1 (GA1)
  • homocystinuria (HCU)

baby's foot being held during newborn blood sport screening

This is often referred to as the ‘heel prick’ test. Most babies screened will not have any of these conditions but, for the small number who do, the benefits of screening are substantial.

The programme makes a major contribution to the prevention of disability and death in our community, through early diagnosis and effective interventions. It is important to let your health professional know if you, or your partner, has a family history of the conditions screened for.

Newborn blood spot screening is a complex programme, involving a wide range of services, from highly specialised laboratories through to individual staff in the community and in hospitals, working closely together.

The Public Health Agency and partner organisations are responsible for ensuring that the population has access to safe, effective, high quality and equitable screening programmes. As part of this function for newborn blood spot screening, the Northern Ireland programme participates in a national (UK) system of quality assurance and performance management.

Further information is available in the programme leaflet:

Newborn hearing and blood spot screening are recommended. It is also important that if, at any stage, you have any concerns about your child’s health or their hearing, you should  discuss these with a health professional such as your health visitor or general practitioner.

Physical examination

All babies will be offered a routine physical examination to check their hips, heart, eyes and testes (for boys) within the first few days of life and again between six to eight weeks of age.

These examinations aim to find any health conditions or abnormalities so that any tests or treatment required can be offered to your baby as soon as possible.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email:
rating@lpsni.gov.uk

For queries or advice about property valuation, email:
valuation@lpsni.gov.uk

For queries or advice about land registry, email:
CustomerInformation.LandRegistration@finance-ni.gov.uk

For mapping queries, email:
Mapping.Helpdesk@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.