New research suggests that the NHS could actually make significant cost savings by introducing ECM testing for all pregnant women at 35-37 weeks and offering antibiotics in labour accordingly.
The research, published in BJOG – an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that the cheapest preventative strategy would be to give antibiotics to all women in labour, but this would carry major disadvantages, such as medicalising childbirth and potentially increasing antibiotic resistance. Excluding this option, they found that “screening based on culture at 35-37 weeks’ gestation, with antibiotics given to all those women who deliver prior to 35 weeks becomes the most cost-effective option.”
They calculated that the risk factor approach currently used in the UK costs GBP50,000 per infection prevented, but that this would fall to GBP45,000 if routine screening were introduced (screening is more efficient because it prevents more cases). This is a purely financial advantage, without taking into account the savings from fewer babies needing intensive care, and without considering the distress to parents who lose their baby when this could easily have been prevented.