After conducting an inquest into the death of a baby in Milton Keynes the coroner, Tom Osborne, identified the cause of death as a late onset Group B streptococcal infection. He has now served a report titled ‘Report to Prevent Future Deaths’ on the Milton Keynes Hospital chief executive, Joe Harrison.
The infection was never discussed with the mother during pregnancy, nor was she made aware of the dangers. This despite Group B Strep infection (GBS) being a small but well-recognised risk in young babies.
Up to two in five people can carry the GBS bacterium in their body, but it is typically harmless to the carrier. However, pregnant women are at risk of passing it onto their babies. This can have terrible consequences and lead to neonatal pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, and other serious health issues.
Currently in the UK GBS is not routinely screened for in pregnancy and instead testing and antibiotic treatment during labour is provided based upon “risk factors”. Women who are identified as "high risk" or who have had a positive test for GBS during their pregnancy should be offered intravenous antibiotics during labour to reduce the risk of infection. As there is no routine screening however, there are therefore many women who are identified as “low risk”, but whose babies may still be at an increased risk of GBS infection because they are not known to be carrying it. Although GBS testing is not currently routinely available on the NHS, GBS home testing services are available privately for about £38.
The coroner highlighted in his report that at least 60 countries had “a national policy for a form of microbiological screening and antibiotics use” and urged the hospital’s trust to consider the introduction of a screening programme. The hospital’s trust has responded by confirming that they would “certainly participate” in a national screening programme.
All NHS screening programmes are commissioned and operated nationally. Public Health England, which runs the National Screening Committee, has yet to comment on the report.
For more information…
The national charity Group B Strep Support campaigns to stop GBS infection in babies through raising awareness and advocating improvements in treatment. They also offer advice and support to families affected by GBS. Further information can be found on their website at https://gbss.org.uk/
Additionally, the NHS offers online advice about GBS, including warning signs of the illnesses potentially caused by it, as well as information on what to do if you are worried about yourself or your baby: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/group-b-strep/
Alternatively, contact your midwife or GP to discuss GBS and any concerns you may have.
As specialists in meningitis and sepsis claims, our Oxford and Milton Keynes team are aware of the devastating impact that GBS infections can have. If you are concerned about the care which you or your baby has received, please contact a member of our clinical negligence team on 01865 781000 for a free, confidential discussion.
Although we are, for the time being, not able to meet clients in person, our specialist clinical negligence team at Freeths is here to support and advise clients. We are available for meetings and consultations via telephone, email, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype and any other digital platform that works for you.
- Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/London/Bristol/Milton Keynes) on 0186 578 1019 email@example.com
- Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent/Birmingham/Manchester/Liverpool) on 0845 274 6830 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jane Williams, Partner (Nottingham/Leicester/Sheffield/Leeds) on 0845 272 5724 email@example.com
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