You are here: Walworth \ Health & Fitness \ BOROUGH IS BOTTOM FOR NEWBORN BABY HEARING SCREENINGS
27 November 2008
By Madeleine Lindh
SOUTHWARK PCT has come out at the bottom of a new NHS survey on hearing tests for newborns, leaving parents ‘appalled’ it has been claimed.
The borough, together with neighbours Lewisham and Lambeth, had the lowest percentage of Hearing Screening Tests of newborn babies in a survey carried out by the NHS Hearing Screening Programme. It reached only 59 to 67 per cent of all newborns, instead of the 98 per cent target set out by the programme.
The Hearing Screening Programme, which is part of an NHS initiative to quickly discover babies with permanent loss of hearing and speed up the help given to them, was introduced in England in 2006.
"Southwark has obviously had lots of issues with this," Suzanne Sibillin, Regional Director of the National Deaf Children's Society, told the 'News'. She continued: "They were one of the last PCTs to come onboard the programme, and people locally have said that they weren't ready."
Failing to detect hearing loss at a young age can severely delay a child's speech and social development, and put strain on families, who often find it difficult to interact with their child.
Ms Sibillin told the 'News' that Southwark families she had heard from had long been appalled by the low number of screenings: "It's because of the effect it's having on their child and their child's speech. They can't communicate with their child and then have to play catch-up - it's unacceptable."
In a statement, Southwark PCT said that its problems had mainly been because of a staff shortage, but the problem had now been rectified. The statement said: "Since February 2008 we have been working with the national newborn screening programme centre to identify and rectify all other management and service issues.”
Dr Ann Marie Connolly, Director of Public Health for Southwark, said: "We are really sorry that we have been falling short of achieving the coverage required, but we expect to be able to do so from now on, and have taken urgent steps to ensure that all babies who may have been missed are now checked."
This survey is the first to be done since the programme started, and in many PCTs there was a substantial discrepancy between the target and actual screenings.
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