Hospitals Failing to Test for Deadly Pregnancy Bacteria Group B Strep

John Bennett
John Bennett

Published: February 10th, 2021

7 min read

Last week The Times reported on the issue of UK hospitals failing to carry out a test to check whether pregnant women have the potentially deadly bacteria Group B Strep, despite guidelines from Public Health England and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). The test costs just over £10. The issue revolves around the process of checking. The advice is the enriched culture medium is best, but most trusts are using the direct culture approach, which according to a freedom of information request, had a higher rate of false negative results.

Group B Strep is the most common cause of infection in newborns in Britain. Whilst it is harmless in most pregnancies it is estimated that in 25% of pregnancies it can cause meningitis, blood poisoning and death.

In the UK it is estimated 800 babies a year develop the infection during the first three months of life, around 50 will die and 70 are left with life-changing disabilities.

Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, is reported as saying: "There's no point in expert bodies like the RCOG producing clinical best-practice guidelines if they're not being adopted on the front line. Our research has found many trusts and boards are not giving pregnant women information on GBS, denying them an informed choice about their care.

"Equally worryingly, a majority are using the wrong test to look for GBS carriage, potentially leaving them vulnerable to expensive legal challenge if things go wrong."

The Group B Strep Support charity recommend all NHS trusts should inform pregnant women about GBS as a routine part of antenatal care, to ensure they are aware they should be tested, and avoid the serious consequences to their child if they have the infection.

Caring for a disabled child will have a serious impact on the family. They will need considerable support to ensure they get the best care and equipment.

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