I propose to take Questions Nos. 273 and 289 together.
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.
A National Screening Committee is being 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.
My officials have commenced some preparatory work, ahead of the Committee becoming operational later this year and will visit counterparts in Italy, at the end of October, to learn more about the work that they have undertaken that led to the recent expansion of the Italian neonatal screening programme.