Today’s inquest into the tragic loss of Baby Olsberg highlights how the UK’s current strategy for preventing group B Strep infection in newborn babies is failing us. The risk-based prevention strategy was followed and didn’t prevent this tragedy. An antenatal screening programme for group B Strep could have.
Despite asking to be tested for group B Strep as it had been detected in her previous pregnancy, Rachel was refused a test. She wasn’t even told that testing is available privately (for around £35).
Illogically, UK guidelines recommend that women where group B Strep has been detected during their current pregnancy should be offered antibiotics in labour to minimise the risk of group B Strep infection in their newborn baby – but they also say not to test women for group B Strep.
Most developed countries with a group B Strep prevention strategy offer all pregnant women a simple, safe and inexpensive test late in pregnancy (35-37 weeks) to identify which women are carrying group B Strep. So they can offer them (and those with other identified risk factors) the antibiotics in labour.
Had this happened, Baby Olsberg’s group B Strep infection and death could – and should have – been prevented.
We welcome the Trust’s statement that they “accept the narrative conclusion and we will ensure any lessons will be learned from and acted upon.”
We are delighted that the Coroner, Ms Lisa Hashmi, will be writing to the relevant medical Royal Colleges on the issue of group B Strep screening.
We call on the Trust, and others across the country, to inform pregnant women about group B Strep as a routine part of their antenatal care; and to ensure pregnant women are offered a sensitive test for group B Strep carriage. Where they are not freely available, women should be informed that they are available privately so they can make their own choice about what is right for them and their baby.
Early in 2014, we met with Jacob and Rachel Olsberg together with their MP Ivan Lewis and heard about the many opportunities their hospital missed to prevent and then treat group B Strep infection in Baby Olsberg. We are inspired by Rachel and Jacob’s determination that, through their own personal tragedy, other lives can be saved.