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Solicitor for bereaved mother highlights the importance of Group B Strep awareness and the need for testing in pregnancy

A bereaved mother whose baby daughter passed away aged seven days old from Group B Strep (GBS) bacterial meningitis is taking legal action against the hospital for alleged failure to diagnose the disease.

Baby on drip

25 July 2017

Ms A is taking legal action against South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation following the death of her daughter Baby I on 2 June 2014.
Baby I was born at James Cook University Hospital on 26 May 2014. She and her mother remained in hospital until the afternoon of 28 May. During their time in hospital Ms A had noticed that Baby I was not feeding well and had not established a proper feeding pattern. She raised this with the hospital staff but was discharged from the hospital with no advice on when to contact the postnatal ward if her daughter’s feeding did not improve or any signs of illness to look out for.
After returning home Baby I did not take feeds at regular intervals and only took small amounts. In the early hours of 29 May Ms A contacted the postnatal ward to report that Baby I had not fed through the night, had a rash and was groaning. Ms A was advised to change the baby’s bottle teat and try to calm her down.
Ms A was unhappy with this advice and decided to take Baby I to A&E. Staff at A&E suspected sepsis and intravenous antibiotics were given, she was diagnosed with GBS bacterial meningitis the next day. Baby I’s condition continued to deteriorate and she died on 2 June.
Emmalene Bushnell, partner in the medical negligence department is representing Ms A in her legal claim and has represented many other bereaved parents who have lost children to GBS.
She said:
“I have represented many families where the failure to diagnose and treat GBS early has led to devastating consequences.
“It is vital that all medical staff involved in postnatal care are aware of the signs and symptoms of GBS.
“GBS is not currently routinely tested for in pregnancy in the UK.  Screening during pregnancy can reveal those women carrying the GBS infection and can ensure that those mothers are given antibiotics during delivery to prevent GBS being passed to the baby. A simple test undertaken in pregnancy could prevent new-born babies being infected with GBS.”
GBS is carried by approximately 1 in 4 pregnant women and is the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in new-borns; it can also infect babies during pregnancy and the first few months of life.
One in 2000 babies in the UK develop a GBS infection shortly after being born. Sadly around one in 10 of these babies will die. Not all babies exposed to GBS become infected, but for those who do, the results can be devastating.
A 12-month pilot scheme Northwick Park Hospital in 2015 offered all expectant mothers a swab test for GBS and resulted in no participating mothers passing the bacteria to their babies. 
Current guidelines only recommend testing women deemed to be ‘at risk’ – including those whose previous children have been affected. According to the findings of programme at Northwick Park of those women who tested positive for GBS, only half would have been classified as ‘at risk’ under current guidelines.

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