NSU and DHBs progressing recommendations from newborn hearing screening programme quality improvement review

image of baby having its hearing screened
Following the review, significant progress has already been made in a number of areas.
The National Screening Unit (NSU) and district health boards (DHBs) have been working together since January 2013 to implement recommendations arising from a quality improvement review of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Early Intervention Programme (UNHSEIP).

The review, released in January 2013, identified 21 recommendations. Some aim to improve DHBs’ service provision while others aim to strengthen leadership and surveillance of the programme by the NSU.  Significant progress has already been made in a number of areas to strengthen the programme.

Comprehensive protocols for monitoring individual screener data have been provided to all DHBs, with the requirement to report against these directly to the NSU.

Improvements have been made to training and education for newborn hearing screening staff, including implementation of a new annual online assessment competency exercise (ACE) tool for screeners, effective January 2014, and resources for recruiting newborn hearing screeners and maintaining an engaged screening team.  Practical workshops for screeners and audiologists were held at the recent Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Conference in Auckland. View the conference papers and presentations here.

Activities required to co-ordinate the programme in DHBs range from oversight of the programme at a strategic level to the operational day-to-day management of newborn hearing screening. Tools have been developed to support DHBs to govern, plan and co-ordinate delivery of their UNHSEIP. Monthly teleconferences between the NSU and coordinators have enhanced sharing of information about programme changes and discussion of operational issues.

Revised UNHSEIP National Policy & Quality Standards have been issued to DHBs. The update strengthens the role of co-ordinators and audiologists in supporting the screening service. There is a strong recommendation that programme coordinators undertake hands-on training in newborn hearing screening to better support the screener role.

An Australian team has been contracted to undertake a review of the newborn hearing screening test regime for the New Zealand UNHSEIP. This will include a literature review, review of test protocols in comparable overseas programmes and consideration of specific screening devices. Programme staff and other key stakeholders are being involved at various points of the review. The review, with recommendations for change/no-change to UNHSEIP screening protocol, will be completed by March 2014.
In DHBs there are many examples of ways the UNHSEIP is working to best meet the needs of local communities.

In Taranaki, the screener and coordinator attended a meeting with local Tamariki Ora nurses from health provider Tui Ora at their own rooms. The nurses now feel more confident in explaining the newborn hearing screening programme to whanau, and both screeners and the local Tamariki Ora nurses feel more comfortable contacting each other about any issues that arise with babies and whanau in relation to the programme or audiology, such as whānau who did not attend appointments.

Canterbury DHB uses a ‘partnership worker’ role based at most GP practices in Christchurch.  The partnership community workers all have health-related backgrounds. Their role is to assist families to attend primary health care appointments, including newborn hearing screening and audiology.

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Page last updated: 30 October 2013