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Newborn blood spot screening

Published on 20 June 2023

This page provides more information on how the newborn blood spot screening programme is managed and run.

If you would like more information on what screening means for you as a participant, visit the NHS Inform page.

We coordinate the provision of newborn screening programmes. Supporting the NHS boards and national multidisciplinary groups, we also help develop specifications, protocols and guidance for the programmes to follow. This ensures consistency across the country. Finally, we assist in monitoring and evaluating the programmes.

Who gets newborn blood spot screening?

Every baby is offered newborn blood spot screening, which is also known as the heel prick test. Ideally this occurs between 96 to 120 hours of life (or four to five completed days). Day of birth is day zero.

How does it work?

Newborn blood spot screening involves taking a blood sample from the baby’s heel to find out if the baby has one of nine rare but serious health conditions. The blood is then put onto a card and sent for testing.

A newborn blood spot card must be completed for all babies, even if all tests are declined. Written consent from a parent is required before the blood spot sample will be taken.

Most babies who receive screening will not have any of the conditions. But, for the small numbers that do, the benefits of screening are enormous. Early treatment can improve health and prevent severe disability or even death.

If it's suspected that a baby has one of the conditions, clinical referral to a healthcare expert will be made and confirmatory testing arranged.

The programme screens for the following conditions:

  • phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • congenital hypothyroidism (CHT)
  • cystic fibrosis (CF)
  • medium chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD)
  • sickle cell disorder (SCD)
  • maple syrup urine disease (MSUD)
  • isovaleric acidaemia (IVA)
  • glutaric aciduria type 1 (GA1)
  • homocystinuria (HCU)

Further information for health professionals:

Find the screening indicators for the programme on the NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.

NSD contact

Please note that NSD does not directly provide medical services and we won't be able to answer queries about your own care or appointments. If you would like to discuss any aspects of your care, please contact your primary healthcare provider. This might be your GP, Consultant, Nurse or other healthcare professional. They will be best placed to give you the right advice. Please do not send any patient identifiable information, such as Date of Birth, CHI number or address to the above email address