New Research Highlights Benefits Of Group B Strep Screening During Pregnancy

Medical Negligence Experts Call For Introduction Of Screening By NHS

03.11.2015

Medical negligence experts at Irwin Mitchell have called for the NHS to reconsider introducing Group B Strep (GBS) screening during pregnancies after new research indicated the tests can dramatically reduce the risk of babies developing the potentially deadly infection.

A study conducted by the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust found an 80 per cent drop in the number of babies developing the bacterial infection when mothers were screened.

GBS is the most common cause of meningitis in babies under three months and in some cases can also cause septicaemia and pneumonia, with one in five pregnant women thought to carry the infection.

The United States, Canada, Germany, France and Slovenia routinely offer GBS screening but the NHS does not have a national screening programme in place.

The study conducted by the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust screened more than 5,300 mothers at Northwick Park Hospital. Due to the impressive results, the hospital is set to implement a screening programme to all pregnant women attending the hospital.

Alison Eddy, a Partner and expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, who has regularly called for widespread Group B Strep screening in the UK, said:

Expert Opinion
“The findings of this survey are extremely important and it is absolutely crucial the study is taken seriously and the introduction of a UK-wide Group B Strep screening programme is considered by the NHS.

“We have seen through our work the impact GBS can have on babies and their mothers. Newborns are extremely vulnerable to infection and can be left with long-term health complications if they come into contact with GBS.

“The fact that a simple test, which can discover if an expectant mother is a carrier of the infection and lead to changes in care plans to protect mothers and babies, is not widely conducted is alarming and it is time for this to change. We hope that this research and the decision of Northwick Park Hospital to introduce screening will lead to a widespread rollout across the NHS in the future.”
Alison Eddy, Partner

Jane Plumb, chief executive of the charity Group B Strep Support, said: "The findings of the pilot show, for the first time in the UK, how effective screening pregnant women with GBS-specific tests is at reducing these devastating infections in newborn babies.

"The current strategy has failed to reduce the rate of GBS infections since its introduction in 2003, and the numbers have been rising. It is time for change. More than 200 families a year could be spared the trauma of their newborn baby suffering preventable GBS infection if we rolled out screening across the UK with similar results."

Dr Gopal Rao, who launched the pilot at the Trust, said: "The results from the pilot are really encouraging. We have seen an 80 per cent reduction in the numbers of babies being born with GBS, from one in every 1,000 births in unscreened mothers to one in every 5,000 births in screened mothers.

"The results have shown that with screening we can improve the care we provide our mothers and their babies. GBS can kill and the results from this pilot will enable midwives to offer further reassurance to our mothers about the infection and safe treatment with antibiotics."

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