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Major step forward in NHS Group B Strep training

NHS England has published an updated version of their Core Competency Framework, which establishes minimum training standards for all healthcare professionals involved in maternity and neonatal care. The aim is to address the known variation in training and competency assessment for significant areas of harm across the country through standardisation.

With Group B Strep being the most common cause of severe infection in newborns in Britain, and all too often a matter of life and death, it's a real step forward that the Core Competency Framework now includes ‘Group B Strep in Labour’ as one of the essential topics which must be covered in training. 

This means that all maternity and neonatal services in England will be required to provide their staff with training specifically addressing Group B Strep.

The hope is that this will significantly improve staff awareness and education regarding Group B Strep, in turn protecting expectant women and their babies from infection and preventing babies from losing their lives or suffering life-changing disability.

What is Group B Strep? 

Group B Strep is a type of bacteria which lives in the intestines, rectum and vagina of around two to four in every 10 women in the UK (20 to 40%). Although harmless to the women who carry the bacterium, there is a small chance that a newborn baby will develop Group B Strep infection and become seriously ill with conditions such as meningitis, sepsis or pneumonia.

There are over 500 cases of early-onset Group B Strep infection in babies each year in the UK. Sadly, around 6% to 7% of babies with the infection die due to one of the above-mentioned complications and 9% to 10% are left with long-term disabilities such as cerebral palsy, brain injury, blindness, and deafness.

Late diagnosis or substandard medical care can increase the risk of complications, and lawyers at Irwin Mitchell sadly represent a number of families who have either lost a child or whose children have developed severe disability due to negligent Group B Strep treatment.

Having seen the devastating consequences that Group B Strep infection can have on families through our work, lawyers such as myself are encouraged by the new Core Competency Framework and hope that it's extended throughout the UK to maximise its impact.

That being said, for us it's an ongoing disappointment that Group B Strep screening is still not routinely offered to all pregnant women in the UK. A simple test can be conducted to understand whether a mother is a Group B Strep carrier and adjustments to her care plan in labour or early diagnosis and treatment to a newborn can prevent devastating injuries. 

The hope is that the UK will follow in the footsteps of countries like the USA, Canada, Germany, France and Slovenia, that already routinely offer such screening.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by Group B Strep at our dedicated section on our website.