Newborn bloodspot screening

  • Introduction

    Newborn bloodspot screening (NBS) (formally known as newborn screening testing) commenced in Victoria in 1966, when screening was introduced for Phenylketonuria. Since then, screening has expanded to testing for Congenital Hypothyroidism, Cystic Fibrosis, Phenylketonuria, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) and over 22 other rare conditions. These rare but serious conditions cannot be seen by just looking at the baby. These tests ensure early detection and treatment of these conditions to save lives. 


    This guideline provides an outline for medical and nursing staff to perform screening tests for newborn infants at the Royal Children's Hospital.

    Definition of Terms

    • Palliated Infant
      Palliative care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions is an active and total approach to care, embracing physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements. It focuses on enhancement of quality of life for the child and support for the family and includes the management of distressing symptoms, provision of respite, and care through death and bereavement.

    Timing of the Test

    All newborn infants are screened regardless of gestational age, weight, feeding or health status between 36 and 72 hours of life. 

    Palliated infants: A sample should still be obtained on palliated infants. This may help to exclude diseases which may have implications for the family in future pregnancies. If the sample is taken after the infant dies, write in red on the screening card that it is a “post-mortem” or “peri-mortem” sample as there is a marked difference in the metabolic profile between a live and a deceased infant. 

    Blood Sampling Table

    Newborn blood sampling table 2023

    NBS flowchart - prem sick neonate v2.1 (

    ****Blood product is now PRBC or whole blood transfusion or ECMO

    If recollection has been missed, collect sample as soon as this is recognised. 
    If in doubt or you have any queries in regards to timing of screening, contact the Newborn Bloodspot Screening Laboratory: Ext 16272

    Responsibility Prior to Collection

    Nursing staff on each shift are responsible for checking that screening is performed or has been performed on infants in their care.

    • Nursing staff need to obtain written informed consent from a parent/guardian prior to performing the test.  

    Note: if parent/guardian not available to provide written consent - writing ‘verbal consent by phone’ is only acceptable with written explanation as to why no parent/guardian signature obtainable. Written or verbal consent is only applicable for the first card sample.

    For subsequent samples, parents should know it has been taken, but are not required to sign each subsequent card. 

    • Parent information leaflet (Newborn Bloodspot Screening – for the health of your baby) informs parents about the screening program and should be given to the parents and discussed prior to obtaining written consent. An interpreter may also be required if their language not available on the website.
    • The brochure, and the simplified version in 12 other languages is available on the Newborn Bloodspot Screening website. The information leaflet can also be obtained from VCGS (Victoria Clinical Genetic Service), 4th Floor East, Royal Children's Hospital.
    Ensure all details are filled out correctly on the newborn bloodspot screening card including:
    • Birth hospital and current hospital
    • Date and time of birth
    • Date and time of sample collection
    • Gestation at birth
    • Birth/Current weight
    • If there has been a transfusion, list the date
    • Tick box if baby is receiving TPN nutrition at time of sample
    • If the baby is male or female gender
    • Relevant clinical/family history – refers to the metabolic conditions we are testing for and if the baby has a past medical history of relevant conditions such as; meconium ileus, severe jaundice or maternal hypothyroidism
    • Collector’s name 

    Occasionally, stored newborn bloodspot screening cards get used for research. Some examples are the development of new tests or determining normal levels of a biomarker. This research is de-identified (i.e. no personal details are released to the researchers) and must be approved by an ethics committee. Parents can tick the “No Secondary Research Use” box if they do not wish their child’s card to be available for such research

    Refusal of Consent

    If parents refuse to have the test the following steps should be followed:

    • Confirm the parents/guardian have received the Newborn Bloodspot Screening information brochure (Newborn Bloodspot Screening - for the health of your baby), and that staff have discussed the test with them. 
    • A medical staff member of the treating team must then meet with the parents and clearly outline the benefits & risks of the NBS and the risks of not completing the test. This is to ensure the parents have a good understanding of the possible consequences. 
    • Medical staff should document clearly in the Progress Notes refusal of consent and the nature of the discussion. The refusal for consent form should be completed and countersigned by the parents.
    • The newborn screening card should be filled out with relevant infant details with ‘NO’ ticked on the Newborn Screening Consent section. 
    • The card can then be sent as normal to the laboratory. 
    • Document the refusal for the test in Child Health Record Book.  
    • Inform the parents/guardian that if the infant becomes unwell, they should inform their GP/paediatrician that their infant has not had a newborn screening test. 
    • Parents/guardian can change their mind at any stage but it should be explained to them that some disorders will not be detected if newborn screening is not performed at the correct time.
    • Parents/guardian must be offered the opportunity to meet with a newborn bloodspot screening counsellor (VCGS Call Centre: 1300 118 247). Contact the newborn bloodspot screening counsellor as soon as possible.
      • More information on refusal of consent can be found here – page 5-7. 


      Procedural Pain Management
      Arterial Sample
      • For arterial line sampling, ensure that the sample does not contain heparinised fluid. A discard of 2-3mls is recommended before using a new syringe to take the sample.
      Venous Sample
      • For venous sampling, refer to the blood sampling section of the RCH Policy Central Venous Access Device Management. Ensure that the sample does not contain heparinised fluid. A discard of 2-3mls is recommended before using a new syringe to take the sample.
      • A venous sample can also be collected via peripheral venous access. Refer to Intravenous Access – Peripheral for sampling technique.
       Capillary Sample


         Record date and time of sample taken in:

        Electronic Medical Record (EMR)

        Flowsheets > Primary Assessment > Newborn Bloodspot Screening (NBS). 

          Child Health Record book (Green book) In the ‘Birth Details’ section.

          Sending Samples

          • Samples should be airdried at the bedside for 4 hours
          • Samples should then be placed in a paper envelope and sent immediately after drying directly to VCGS Specimen Reception or to RCH Specimen Reception (both via the pneumatic tube)
            • VCGS Specimen Reception – pneumatic tube #4 (send to this station between 0700-1700 only)
            • RCH Specimen Reception – pneumatic tube #2 (send to this station at all other times)

          Special Considerations

          For more information about what happens after screening, please refer for the Newborn Bloodspot Screening Information for Parents brochure. 


          Other Resources

          RCH Newborn Screening Clinical Nurse Consultants
          Noelle Giordano, Tabitha Hole, Mia Normoyle
          Phone: (03) 9345 6244 or (03) 9345 6062

          Newborn Bloodspot Screening Laboratory
          Victorian Clinical Genetic Services

          Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville 3052
          Tel: (03) 8341 6272 Fax: (03) 8341 6339

          Newborn Bloodspot Screening Nurse: Email:

          Phone: (03) 8341 6460

          Evidence Table

          Newborn Screening Evidence Table

          Please remember to read the disclaimer.

          The development of this nursing guideline was coordinated by Lauren Cross, Registered Nurse/Midwife, Butterfly Ward, and approved by the Nursing Clinical Effectiveness Committee. Updated January 2023.