Babies should be checked after birth and at six to eight weeks
More than half of England's primary care trusts have no policy in place to screen newborns for hip problems, a charity investigation has found.
Research by Steps found 57% had no staff guidance on checks that should be carried out, in accordance with advice, at birth and at six to eight weeks.
Screening is important to spot hip dysplasia, a condition diagnosed in up to 2,000 babies and children each year.
Left undetected and untreated, it can lead to deformity and disability.
A UK-wide screening programme has been in place since 1969.
Steps found 69 out of 121 primary care trusts (PCTs) and 11 out of 110 acute trusts in England which responded to their survey had no formal policy.
However, a representative for the trusts said the absence of policy did not necessarily mean no screening was taking place at these hospitals.
David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation's PCT Network, which represents all PCTs in England, said: "All PCTs have arrangements in place for these checks to be carried out by appropriate healthcare professionals.
"Although a PCT may have not have a separate policy for hip dysplasia screening, it does not mean that they have no screening procedures.
"PCTs have to decide which groups of professionals should be commissioned to carry out the screening. It many cases it is GPs who are asked and paid to do this work by PCTs so it is not fair to say that it is simply being left up to GPs."
But Sue Banton, founder and director of Steps, said: "Our research highlights a staggering gap in health policy which, if correctly followed, could detect lower limb conditions at an early age and save both parents and children from years of pain and emotional distress.
"It's frightening so many PCTs are refusing to take responsibility for checking babies' hips, leaving it to GPs and creating massive inconsistency in procedure."
Andreas Roposch, an orthopaedic surgeon and epidemiologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said the hips should be routinely checked in all newborns, by gently rotating the legs.
If there appears to be excessive movement in the joint they will be classed as unstable and depending on the severity of the instability the baby will be treated or asked to come back within a few weeks for a further examination, which may include a scan and x-rays.
Treatment involves splints and plaster body casts to help the bones and joints align correctly. Some children also require surgery.
On 24 February, during Baby Hip Health Awareness Week, Steps supporter Dave Anderson MP will table a cross-party Early Day Motion in the Commons to urge government action.