Evaluating newborn blood spot screening: a framework and initial assessment

In the Netherlands, infants are tested for 25 serious but treatable conditions through newborn blood spot screening (NBS). Early detection can prevent or ameliorate serious harm to the child’s health. At the request of the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, the Health Council has specified criteria to assess the long-term harms and benefits of NBS, and performed an initial assessment for 11 of the 25 conditions included in the NBS list. Overall, the Council’s findings were positive: for most of the 11 conditions evaluated, there is evidence to suggest that screening leads to substantial health benefits, and that these benefits outweigh the harms of screening.
To future-proof the heel prick programme, the Health Council believes it is important to carry out a periodical evaluation of all the conditions and use the results of those evaluations to make adjustments if necessary. To this end, more data will need to be collected and recorded and more research conducted into the long-term effects of screening.