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Congenital heart disease

The UK NSC policy on Congenital heart disease screening in newborns


Type Newborn
Last review completed May 2014
Next review due in 2016/17
Policy recommendation     Systematic population screening programme recommended

Congenital heart disease screening is part of the physical examination of newborn babies and again at 6-8 weeks.


The UK NSC recommends piloting the use of pulse oximetry test to evaluate the potential benefits of its use as a new screening test for congenital heart disease.

Key downloads Last external review | Last policy review summary

What is screening?

Screening is a process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition. It is important to ensure that the benefits and downsides of screening have been properly thought through. The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) is responsible for reviewing screening policies every 3 years and making recommendations to ministers in the 4 UK countries about whether to not a screening programme for a certain condition should be set up.

» Find out more about screening, the role of the UK NSC or the policy review process

More about Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart defects (CHDs) affect about 8 in 1000 (approx. 1%) newborn babies. CHDs cover a wide range of problems of the heart. Some defects resolve by themselves and more severe defects require urgent treatment. In the vast majority of cases the cause of the problem is not known. In families where there is an affected child there is usually only a slight increase in risk with future pregnancies of around 3%. In some families with a recognised genetic cause, the risk of recurrent heart problems in future pregnancy is much higher.

A number of frequently asked questions have been developed following the last review in 2014.

Screening in the UK

Compare how screening is offered across the UK.

Policy stakeholders

British Congenital Cardiac Association
British Heart Foundation
Children's Heart Federation
Royal College of Nursing
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Royal College of Surgeons
Tiny Tickers

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the policy is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More about the policy review process, including the role of stakeholders, can be found in the guide to Engaging with the UK NSC's policy review process.

Related documents

icon Consultation responses from indiv (PDF document, 641KB, 06/05/14)
icon Consultation responses from orgs. (PDF document, 1.12MB, 06/05/14)
icon Consultation responses linked to CHFed campaign (PDF document, 1.16MB, 06/05/14)
icon Cover Sheet and Survey Responses (PDF document, 382KB, 06/05/14)
icon Pulse Ox. Frequently Asked Questions (PDF document, 164KB, 06/05/14)

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