MORE parents than ever before are taking their newborns for vital medical screenings.

More than 14,400 babies born in the Greater Glasgow health area had tests last year to detect hearing impairments before leaving hospital, which makes 97% of all eligible newborns.

More than 1000 of the babies tested had to be referred for follow-up examinations, but only 31 were found to have a hearing problem in 2012/2013, according to the NHS Public Health Screening Annual Report.

Emilia Crighton, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, was pleased so many parents had chosen to have their babies tested.

She said: "Newborn screening is vitally important. It allows us to identify any problems very early on and begin treatments or put in place supports immediately.

"We understand parents want the very best for their new baby and it is extremely encouraging so many are choosing to have these screening tests."

The tests are designed to detect any mild to serious issues babies could have with their hearing, and the correct treatment can be started as soon as a problem is found.

Almost 13,700 babies in the Greater Glasgow health area, 98% of all those eligible for the examinations, were also given blood spot tests this year.

When a newborn is just five days old, a specifically-designed machine is used to take a drop of blood from the baby's heel and medical staff then perform essential checks on the sample.

Cystic fibrosis, which impacts lung development and digestion, is tested for, along with four other diseases: phenylketonuria, sickle cell disease, con- genital hypothyroidism and medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency.

Although these conditions are rare, testing means that if babies are found to have any of the diseases, they can be treated as quickly as possible, which can help to improve their quality of life

Ms Crighton said: "Being a new parent can be difficult in itself, but if there is a health issue that we can identify early on it means our staff can start to put in place helps and treatment if appropriate."

"We would want to reassure parents that early detection is a good thing.

"Ideally we are aiming to ensure every baby born in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area undergoes these tests to ensure help and support are provided to those who need it."