- How long have you been involved with Group B Strep Support?
- What is your main ambition for the charity?
- What are the best parts of being a GBSS Trustee?
- And what is the worst thing?
- If as a Trustee you could give one piece of advice to anyone reading this, what would it be?
How long have you been involved with Group B Strep Support?
Quite a long time, in two different ways. When I was first instructed to deal with a Strep B inquest and legal claim, after the death of one of twins, I contacted GBSS for advice and was very much helped by Jane Plumb. I realised that back then the charity did not have a legal panel but instead referred parents considering legal action to the Law Society. So around 14 years ago, a panel was established to advise parents thinking about litigation, and originally had two firms – one in the north and Tozers in the south. The panel has now expanded and presently stands at six firms of specialists dealing with Strep B cases.
Secondly, mainly as a result of the above process it became very clear very quickly just what an essential service GBSS was offering to those touched by this terrible infection, and how hard they were striving to improve matters. As a result I became a trustee around seven years ago, and hope to remain on the Trust Board for many years even though I am retiring as a solicitor and will no longer be personally on the legal panel, although my colleagues at Tozers will remain there.
What is your main ambition for the charity?
Although Group B Strep Support is of course a charity, and deservedly so, I see it instead as more of a campaigning/pressure group, something it does extremely well. Far too many mothers and babies are still affected by Strep B and we hope that partly by educating both parents and clinicians, and partly by changing the testing regime for GBS, no more heartache will result from the infection. Several countries have had great success in adopting a testing-base strategy, so that all pregnant women are swabbed and if they are found to be carriers of Strep B then appropriate steps are taken to minimise the risk of this being passed onto the baby during the delivery. However, the UK still follows a risk-based approach, so that only those mothers who fall into a particular risk group are tested, and experience shows that this misses a number of instances of subtle infection. What this could lead to is well known, since around a third of all women carry GBS for life and for those who then give birth, 1 in every 400 babies will develop a GBS infection. Of those babies, 1 in 19 will not survive and a further 1 in 14 will develop a long-term injury. Significantly reducing or ideally eradicating that is the main aim of GBS Support.
What are the best parts of being a GBSS Trustee?
Two things. First, playing a small role in battling to achieve the above objectives. Secondly, continually being amazed by my colleagues on the Trust Board. As well as Jane Plumb and her very hardworking family members, we have e.g. former presidents of both the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives; very senior and experienced midwives and nurses; and trustees who excel in finance, marketing, law and other skills which bring a real mix to the equation. It is an absolute honour to be part of that.
And what is the worst thing?
Occasional frustration in the uphill battle we all face. For all its amazing strengths, in my view the NHS can occasionally be slow to adapt, and so it remains a challenge helping specialists to gather enough evidence to make practices and procedures safer for all expectant women. I should say that this frustration is more than outweighed by the satisfaction felt when there are changes across the whole service to inform people about Strep B.
If as a Trustee you could give one piece of advice to anyone reading this, what would it be?
Tell others! If they are reading this then by definition they must know something about GBS, but so many people do not. In my role as a medical negligence solicitor handling Strep B claims, the majority of my clients had never heard of this infection until they or their baby became affected by it. If all parents–to-be are told about this during pregnancy, then they will be much more alert to the symptoms. As with so many situations leading to ill health or injury in the past, education is essential.