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Trust launches pioneering baby screening pathway

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Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Greater Manchester has launched a new approach to highlight the dangers of drinking in pregnancy to unborn babies.

This week it became the first hospital in the country to screen pregnant women for birth defects brought on by alcohol consumption.

“Developing babies lack the ability to process, or metabolise alcohol”

Kerry Lyons

The trust’s Hospital Alcohol Liaison Service in collaboration with specialist midwife, Mags Deakin, has developed a groundbreaking programme aimed at preventing foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The new pathway implemented at Tameside Hospital enables increased screening throughout pregnancy and also allows maternal drinking to be recorded in the child’s medical notes.

Monthly education programmes will be available within the hospital and the team has invested in demonstration dolls to show the malformation in facial development that can result from drinking.

Karen James, the trust’s chief executive, said she believed the initiative would influence public health messages on drinking during pregnancy and mirror the approach taken on smoking.

She said: “The release of this pathway is the culmination of nearly 18 months of hard work by this talented team.

“It ensures that there will be a seamless approach to both the identification of alcohol consumption in pregnancy and subsequent education offered to pregnant women around preventing developmental disability associated with low-level alcohol consumption,” she added.

Kerry Lyons, head of the HALS team, noted that most babies negatively affected by alcohol exposure had no physical birth defects.

“These children have subtle behavioural and learning problems that are often not diagnosed at all or misdiagnosed as autism or attention deficit disorder instead of one of the foetal alcohol spectrum disorders,” she said.

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