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Bereaved parents call for routine Strep B screening

250,000-signature petition says testing would prevent avoidable deaths and disability

Mark Gould

Monday, 23 January 2017

Bereaved parents have today delivered a 250,000-signature petition to the Department of Health calling for the introduction of routine screening for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) which they say would prevent over 80% of infections with the bacteria. 

GBS is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies, causing meningitis, sepsis and pneumonia. Carried normally by one in every four women, the group B Strep bacteria can pass from a pregnant woman to her baby around birth with potentially devastating consequences for the baby.

Campaigners say one baby a week dies from GBS infection and many others who survive are left with long-term disabilities.  

Group B Strep Support, the campaign group which has organised the petition, says that routinely offering these tests could prevent over 80% of GBS infections in newborn babies born to women carrying the bacteria, and would cost just £11 per test. 

The group says that unlike most other developed countries, health professionals in the UK rarely tell pregnant women about GBS and only rarely offer sensitive testing. 

The petition was delivered by Fiona Paddon and Scott Bramley, whose son Edward died as a result of Strep B infection. They were accompanied by Sir Nicholas Soames MP, the patron of GBS, plus other parents affected by the infection. 

"I started this petition because I could not bear the thought of others suffering the needless loss and heartache we have experienced by losing our beautiful son, Edward, due to group B Strep," Ms Paddon said. 

"The level of support it has received is well beyond any target I could have imagined and today, I feel that I am here to speak with the force of quarter of a million voices to those with the power to stop GBS from wrecking any more lives. To them I say – make that change right now; action the petition’s objectives today and help prevent the heartbreak of baby loss to GBS."  

Sir Nicholas said that for too long the UK has "trailed behind our peers on how we reduce group B Strep infection in babies". Yet more and more families every year are suffering the devastation that avoidable group B Strep infection can bring.

"I applaud Fiona and Scott for their brave work, following the tragedy of their son’s death from group B Strep infection, to get the Department of Health to see sense. We must change what we do – by informing all expectant parents of group B Strep, and offering women the opportunity to be tested in pregnancy – to reduce these awful infections in newborn babies," he added.

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