Help us ensure every newborn can have a pulse oximetry test

We passionately believe that every newborn should have the test that could help save their life. We are encouraging everyone to respond to this national consultation and help us ensure that this becomes a mandatory part of newborn testing in the UK.

Pulse Oximetry TestEvery year around 1,000 babies leave hospital with their congenital heart defect undetected, potentially putting their lives in danger.

Babies born with serious heart problems are at risk of disability or even death if not diagnosed before they fall into the early stages of heart failure. Tiny Tickers has now placed 86 pulse oximetry machines in NHS Trusts across the UK and counting. We believe that every newborn should have access to a pulse oximetry test as part of newborn testing. It is a simple, quick and painless test to ensure that no baby leaves hospital with an undetected heart defect.

What is Pulse Oximetry?

Pulse Oximetry testing helps to detect heart defects by measuring oxygen levels (oxygen saturation) in the blood. It uses a light sensor to assess the level of oxygen in the baby’s blood. The test is carried out using a pulse oximeter, a specialist machine that is used routinely throughout the world to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. A small probe is wrapped around the baby’s hand and foot and connected to a small machine that measures the baby’s oxygen levels by shining a light through the skin.

This test takes a just a few moments, at no discomfort to the baby. Not every baby will be born displaying signs and symptoms of CHD, and with this machine many more life-threatening defects can be detected.

In the USA, where pulse oximetry screening is routine for all babies, a large study has reported that death from critical heart defects was reduced by one third in babies offered the screening compared with those who were not offered it.

Currently only around half of the babies born in the UK are offered this test – meaning around half will not be tested. Whether or not a baby has the test depends on the hospital of birth. If the NHS was to recommend this test as part of mandatory newborn screening, then all babies born in the UK would be offered it.

What do we need you to do?

The NHS has been considering routine pulse oximetry screening for critical heart defects in newborn babies born in the UK for a number of years. The UK National Screening Committee (UKNSC) has now launched a public consultation on its recommendation not to make the test mandatory. If that recommendation is passed, it means it will continue to be up to each individual NHS Trust whether or not to offer pulse oximetry testing – and that means the postcode lottery of whether a baby is offered the test will continue.

Further information about the UKNSC’s consultation is on a dedicated website. Please take a look at the consultation website, read the consultation cover note and complete the consultation comments form after reviewing the associated documents on the consultation website. And please return your form to:

This consultation is an opportunity for everyone, including parents and health professionals, to express their views and experiences with this test.

Take part in the consultation online – closing date 9 August 2019

Your views matter…please share your experiences with the NHS by responding to the consultation today.


Read more about Tommy’s story and why we firmly believe that pulse oximetry testing should be a mandatory part of newborn screening.

Also you can read more about the process on the University of Birmingham‘s website. We’re proud to be working alongside them to help ensure every newborn is offered the test that could help save their life.

Take part in the consultation online – closing date 9 August 2019

NSC email address for submission of comments in a prominent place.