ACTRESS Jenny Agutter was on hand to see cystic fibrosis screening work at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
The Call the Midwife star is patron of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust – a cause that is close to her heart after her niece was diagnosed with the condition.
The pathology laboratory at QA in Cosham screens 40,000 babies from as far as Swindon and Bath, to West Sussex, for many conditions, including cystic fibrosis (CF).
Babies are screened when they are five-days-old via the ‘heel-prick’ test.
Jenny said: ‘It’s an organisation I have known for 34 years since my niece was diagnosed with the condition.
‘Things have changed a great deal, and in the last few years it has been very much a part of the campaign that CF was part of the heel-prick test.
‘We recognise how important that screening is and it’s a lifesaver.
‘And CF needs to be found very early and it’s wonderful to see what’s happening here.
‘It’s lovely to see where these important tests are happening.
‘I have taken it for granted in the past, so it was good to see the cogs and the wheels and the people behind it, which is great.’
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition in which the lungs and digestive system become clogged with thick sticky mucus.
Symptoms usually start in early childhood and include a persistent cough, recurring chest and lung infections and poor weight gain.
Another sign is known as the ‘sweat test’ in which an affected child’s sweat is unusually salty.
Although there is no cure, there are a number of treatments that can help.
This includes antibiotics for chest and lung infections and physiotherapy to clear mucus from the lungs.
Of the 40,000 or so babies screened at QA, around 15 will show signs of CF.
Dr David Sinclair, consultant biochemist at QA, said: ‘Getting an early diagnosis means we can help the child straight away.
‘A sweat test would also help to see if a child has CF.
‘We screen a lot of babies here and we make sure once a family knows their child has CF, we bring them in straight away.
‘We were very happy to show Jenny around the laboratory.’