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Are the NHS right to overlook GBS Screening for all pregnant women and how effective are their current methods of managing Group B Strep?
Group B Strep specialist solicitor Stuart Bramley writes –
“I was interested to read the results of two recent studies into GBS, particularly when those results are taken together. The medical publication BMJ Open describes the experience at one London NHS Trust in the year after they stopped a pilot of screening all pregnant women for Strep B. After this ended, the hospitals concerned then reverted to the same risk-based approach to trigger the offer of antibiotics in labour as is common across the health service. In the year from March 2016, the infection rate of early-onset GBS increased fivefold, and 9 babies became infected – but the mother of only one of those should have received antibiotics using the risk-based criteria.
This needs to be considered alongside a report published by Public Health England on Friday. It revealed that under the risk-based approach described above, reported rates of GBS bacteraemia (both early- and late-onset) are rising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For example, early-onset GBS bacteraemia in England has increased to 0.46 cases for every 1,000 births, 308 babies developing this infection. The study also highlights how one previously commonplace antibiotic used to prevent Strep B, clindamycin, is no longer being used since resistance to it has risen to 26%.
This begs the question of how much longer the NHS can continue to use a method of tackling Strep B which is not only failing mums-to-be, it is failing more and more of them. Screening all women may cost more, but that cost would be dwarfed by the amount currently being paid out in compensation to children left permanently injured by the failure to recognise and address GBS”.