HSE Newborn Hearing Screening Programme
Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Service Health Service Executive, Republic of Ireland
NPS delivers the Newborn Hearing Screening Service for the whole of Ireland, providing the screeners, screening equipment and national data system at every Maternity Unit across Ireland. Since the introduction of the NPS Hearing Screening Service the average time to identify children with hearing impairment has been reduced to less than 3 months.
With no national newborn hearing screening programme, a shortage of qualified audiologists, and increasing waiting lists, some children at four years of age were only just being identified with moderate or profound hearing loss.
The introduction of a national universal hospital based newborn screening service using proven protocols and processes, backed up by a national data system to ensure all babies were identified, offered a screen and where necessary tracked through to diagnostic and intervention services. The service would be the first of its kind to be provided through a managed service contract with stringent service levels and a robust governance structure.
The introduction of a specialist pediatric diagnostic support service to provide the capacity and capability to receive and manage referrals from the screening service.
Nearly 7 years on the children of Ireland benefit from being screened by one of the most effective screening programmes in the world. Every baby born in Ireland whether in a hospital or at home is invited for screening and over 99% of all babies enter the screening programme.
Detection, diagnosis and intervention has reduced to less than 3 months (on average) and the impact of the service has been truly life changing for over 550 babies, giving them the chance to achieve their true potential.
There are approximately 80 children born in the Republic of Ireland with a significant permanent hearing impairment.
Until April 2011, the only systematic practice of detecting children with hearing loss was either as a consequence of the 9 month distraction test or by concerns picked up during educational enrolment. In a small number of cases this meant that children as old as four had a moderate or severe hearing loss undetected.
To address this situation the Health Service Executive (HSE) announced to commission a national programme to introduce a National Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Service for every newborn baby in Ireland. The programme would first be implemented at one of the countries largest hospitals Cork University Hospital with roll-out to the rest of Ireland over the following 2 years. The first baby was to be screened by the programme in April 2011.
Northgate Public Services (NPS), in association with the England Newborn Hearing Programme Centre (NHSP), was the successful supplier to be awarded the contract to complete the implementation of the programme, and to run the service until March 2017.
At the core of the NPS proposal was the use of its SMaRT Screening and Diagnostic support system. By managing each stage of the screening process, providing full transparency of service performance, SMaRT provided one of the key cornerstones of robust HSE governance model that underpinned the safe delivery of the service.
During the implementation of the service NPS recruited and trained over 130 staff ranging from screeners, managers and quality assurance coordinators, and provided additional audiology expertise to help define and implement the new diagnostic service pathways.
The Service went live in Cork Maternity Hospital in April 2011 and within 2 years the service had been implemented across the whole of Ireland. The relationship between the HSE and NPS has remained strong throughout contract with new practices and enhancements continuing to be developed and implemented, the latest being the introduction of a peer review system to provide an ‘expert’ second opinion on diagnostic outcomes. In 2017 NPS were awarded a new contract to continue to run the service for a further 7 years.
“I am delighted that our partnership with Northgate Public Services and the commitment of their team has delivered such an efficient service to mothers and their newborns.”
Director of Midwifery,CUMH
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