Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Questions (161)

Fergus O'Dowd


161. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health if a reply will issue to correspondence from a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40029/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

A response will issue to the individual in relation to this issue which will outline recent developments in relation to Newborn Screening.   

Currently all newborn babies (between 3 and 5 days old) are offered newborn bloodspot screening (generally known as the ‘heel prick’) through their parents/guardians for eight very rare conditions that are treatable if detected early in life.

Ireland has traditionally evaluated the case for commencing or expanding a national screening programme against the internationally accepted criteria (collectively known as Wilson Junger criteria). The evidence bar for commencing a screening programme should and must remain high.  This evidence threshold ensures that we can be as confident as we can be that the programme in question is effective, quality assured and operating to safe standards for the population. We must continue with a robust, methodologically sound and detailed analysis of the evidence in each case.

A National Screening Committee will be established and will hold its first meeting before the end of 2019, as per recommendation 5, contained within the Scally Review (2018).  The Committee’s role will be to undertake an independent assessment of the evidence for screening for a particular condition against internationally accepted criteria and make recommendations accordingly. 

I appointed Professor Niall O’Higgins as Chair of the Committee in July and asked that, as part of its initial body of work, the Committee prioritise a review of the national newborn blood-spot screening programme and look specifically at how Ireland should best proceed with an expansion in line with international best practice.  Any future potential changes to the National Newborn Bloodspot Screening Programme will be incorporated as part of the Committee’s work programme.