The importance of timely newborn metabolic screening

The majority of blood spot cards should reach the lab within four days.
The majority of blood spot cards should reach the lab within four days.
The National Screening Unit (NSU) is emphasising the need for blood spot cards to reach the screening laboratory for timely care. Early detection of metabolic disorders can prevent severe disability and death. Any delays can affect the outcome for babies, especially when there is often no clinical indication of the disorder prior to the screening test.

The majority of blood spot cards should be reaching the laboratory within four days of the sample being taken. To ensure a newborn metabolic screening blood sample is tested in the recommended time for a timely and reliable result:

  • take the sample at 48 to 72 hours after birth
  • dry the blood spot card sample horizontally for two to four hours
  • place in the free FastPost envelope
  • post in a FastPost box (You can check the location of FastPost boxes in your area here.)

An investigation of postal systems has found that, although there are some postal delays, these are not responsible for blood spot cards taking longer than eight days to reach the laboratory.

Blood spot cards, envelopes and lancets can be ordered by emailing [email protected].

It is also important that Lead Maternity Carers (LMCs) check they have received a laboratory report from LabPLUS within 10 days of posting the blood spot card. If not, please call LabPLUS on 0800 522 7587 (0800LABPLUS) to check and take action, where required. A baby’s life may depend on it.

All LMCs have been provided with a report on their blood spot cards for babies born in 2014 with the time each card has taken to reach the laboratory. The NSU will continue to monitor transit times and follow up any that are significantly delayed.

Text results now available when a second sample is required

Some LMCs have requested the laboratory text rather than phone results when a second sample is required and further action is needed because the sample was taken too early or was not suitable for testing.

If you would prefer to receive texts rather than phone calls in this situation, please send a text to 021704781 with you name and registration number. You must ensure your phone is password protected and kept safe and that you delegate responsibility for actioning any follow-up requests if you are away.

To receive the Screening Matters newsletter by email, fill out our sign-up form.

Page last updated: 30 June 2015