Richard Kayser, Senior Associate Solicitor and expert medical negligence lawyer at our Legal Panel member Irwin Mitchell, has written a guest blog for us on group B Strep testing and the experience of one of his clients affected by group B Strep infection.
It’s about time that every pregnant mother is routinely tested for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) or at the very least advised of the risks of not being tested!
£11* is the cost to the NHS of the test which will diagnose whether an expectant mother is a carrier of GBS compared to an award of over £15 million pounds for an average child diagnosed and compensated for Cerebral Palsy.
*One could further argue that the true cost is far less than £11 as the facilities and clinicians are already in place in the Hospital Trusts. Surely it is now time to investigate every expectant mother for GBS or at the very least give expectant mothers the choice. The test is around £35 if bought privately.
However, the importance is not just with identifying a mother as a carrier but to ensure appropriate steps are taken to then offer a mother in labour appropriate antibiotics and monitor the child post-delivery to ensure GBS infection has been prevented.
GBS can cause serious infections but if it is detected before labour prevention strategies can be put in place to prevent a child developing the infection. This is not about considering a cure but about prevention!
Bethany Ford, 24, was tested for group B Strep during her labour at Epsom Hospital. However, by the time the results testing positive for the bacteria came back, her son Grayson Harris was already born and admitted to the special baby care unit. The test found that he had group B Strep meningitis.
Grayson was discharged from hospital two weeks after his birth in December 2015. However, he was readmitted to hospital several weeks later. Following further tests he was diagnosed as having a brain injury and now has global development delay.
Bethany and her partner, Keith Harris, 32, of Mitcham, instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate their son’s care under Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital.
Bethany and Keith are supporting calls for all women to be tested on the NHS for group B Strep between 35 and 37 weeks into their pregnancy so appropriate care plans can be put in place to stop the bacteria being transmitted from mums to their babies, and babies falling ill like Grayson did.
Bethany had experienced a routine pregnancy when her waters broke on 16 December, 2015. She was admitted to Epson Hospital and a nurse took a swab from her, which she subsequently learned was to test for group B Strep.
Grayson was born at around 10am the next day. He started grunting and yelping that afternoon. At around 6pm he was admitted to the special care baby unit. It was then confirmed that the Group B Strep test was positive and it had caused meningitis.
Grayson was discharged on New Year’s Eve following treatment but Bethany and her partner Keith Harris were devastated when he was admitted to Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children in late January. He was subsequently diagnosed with a brain injury and now has global development delay.
Bethany said: “The first few weeks of Grayson’s life were incredibly traumatic and no parent should have to see their child suffer and struggle in the way he did. It is also difficult to take that following his birth it seemed like the doctors did not initially think there was any cause for concern. The older Grayson gets the more we are noticing just how far behind other children his age he is.
We love Grayson so much and are determined to ensure that he gets the best from life. However, we think it is also vital that steps are taken to ensure that group B Strep testing is undertaken a lot earlier than it was in our case.”
Richard Kayser, Senior Associate Solicitor and expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, who represents Grayson, said: “More than three years on from Grayson’s birth, Bethany and Keith remain understandably very concerned by the issues he has faced in his life so far. A simple test can be conducted to highlight whether an expectant mother is a carrier of the bacteria and her care plan can be adjusted to ensure intravenous antibiotics are provided throughout labour to prevent the bacteria being transmitted to the baby. Everything possible must be done to prevent this infection in babies.”
Group B Strep
Figures from Public Health England reveal group B Strep infections in babies increased from 470 in 2008 to 575 in 2018. It is estimated that 35 infants die every year after becoming infected with group B Streptococcus (GBS). A further 25 are left with serious disabilities including brain damage.
While preventable with a simple course of antibiotics the UK does not routinely offer pregnant women the swab test that the majority of European countries do, although it can be purchased privately.
Instead, the UK relies on a risk-based approach in which doctors and nurses follow guidelines to identify women with factors that may indicate GBS, including ruptured membranes and a high temperature.
Further details can be found at https://www.irwinmitchell.com/personal/medical-negligence/birth-injury-claims/group-b-strep-claims