The NHS Newborn and Infant Physical Examination Programme (NIPE) offers parents of newborn babies in England the opportunity to have their child examined shortly after birth. The newborn physical examination is a holistic assessment of the health and well being of the newborn baby. The baby is examined from top to toe by a qualified healthcare professional, including a screening examination of the heart, hips, eyes and testes in boys.
Routine physical examinations of the newborn baby, and 6-8 week infant, are an integral part of the universal Healthy Child Programme. The screening components (examination of the heart, hips, eyes and testes) are also included in the NICE clinical guidelines for the NHS: Routine postnatal care of women and their babies (NICE 2006) which covers the core care that every healthy woman and healthy baby should be offered during the first 6 to 8 weeks after the birth.
These examinations have been carried out across the country by healthcare professionals for many years but there has been little guidance on what constitutes a good quality service. Consequently, considerable variation exists in clinical practice, policies and training sometimes resulting in inequity and late diagnoses. Prevalence of the problems with these four elements is rare but, if left undetected, can, in some cases, result in very detrimental outcomes. There are effective treatments for most of the conditions likely to be found but early diagnosis is essential.
The NIPE Programme covers:
- the newborn physical examination which should be carried out within 72 hours of birth, ideally before hospital discharge
- the infant physical examination which is repeated at 6 to 8 weeks of age
- referrals from the examination for further assessment, up to the point of discharge or diagnosis
National Standards and Competencies for the newborn examination were launched in March 2008 with the aim of improving the quality, timeliness and consistency of the newborn examination. The NIPE Programme was established to assist NHS organisations and clinicians attain the national standards and competencies set out in that document.
A timeline of work progressed by the NIPE Programme is available below.
More information about screening and other screening programmes is available on http://www.screening.nhs.uk/
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