As 2018 draws to a close, we want to thank everyone who has supported and helped the charity throughout the year, whether that’s through raising awareness of group B Strep, raising funds for us, or working with us to campaign for change. In whatever way you’ve been involved with the charity, our sincere thanks to each and every one of you for your support.

It’s been an incredible action-packed year and we think it’s really important to take a moment and reflect on some of the achievements you’ve made happen, as well as outline our plans for 2019.

Highlights of 2018

January: We took delivery 130,000 copies of the leaflet on group B Strep written for expectant parents that we co-wrote with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. We have provided this leaflet free-of-charge to parents, health professionals and NHS hospitals throughout 2018 – and have placed several repeat orders since! We published a new leaflet for families whose baby has developed a GBS infection which signposts to sources of practical information and support. See After your baby’s group B Strep infection.

February: We were delighted to be invited to attend the International Symposium on Streptococcus agalactiae Disease (ISSAD) conference in South Africa. Our Chief Executive Jane Plumb MBE was asked to be join the organising committee, and co-chair the session on advocacy for GBS prevention strategies, including the charity’s campaigning for improvements in the UK. Three parents bravely shared their and their babies’ experiences of group B Strep to a hushed audience. Researchers presented their latest research and pharmaceutical companies gave updates on the progress toward a group B Strep vaccine, which we all hope is no more than 10 years away. Jane also spoke at the London Maternity and Midwifery Festival on the impact of the revised Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ 2017 guidelines on preventing early-onset group B Strep infection.

March: Jane Plumb MBE represented the charity at the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) Global Conference in Singapore. Jane spoke about the work we are doing with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the importance of health professionals and charities working together.

April: At the Birmingham Maternity & Midwifery Festival, we gave a presentation designed to improve midwives’ knowledge on group B Strep. There were a thousand registered participants, so it was a fantastic platform from which to educate and support health professionals.

May: We met with Public Health Minister Steve Brine MP to discuss group B Strep, and how we could work with the Government and Public Health England to improve group B Strep prevention in the UK. We were joined by Anita Dougall, Director of Clinical Quality at the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Prof Paul Cosford, Medical Director of Public Health England, and meeting organiser, Melanie Onn MP. The Minister was positive about our work to ensure every pregnant woman in the UK is provided with a leaflet on group B Strep as part of their routine antenatal care.

June: We launched our survey into the long-term impacts of late-onset group B Strep infection, and were blown away by the hundreds of families who kindly took the time to share their experiences with us. We are currently analysing the data, and will share the findings in 2019. Jane Plumb MBE also presented at the Manchester Maternity & Midwifery Festival, sharing the impact of early-onset group B Strep infection on not only the babies but also their families.

July: July was Group B Strep Awareness Month and our amazing supporters raised huge amounts of awareness across the UK and beyond: sharing their experiences on social media and in the press, including in publications from the East Anglian Daily Times to the MailOnline. Lots of people raised vital funds – taking part in our Strep B Stomps and the Big GBSS Bake Sale, as well as the British 10K, to name but a few. In July over 13,000 group B Strep patient information leaflets were sent to doctors, midwives and maternity units.

August: The Scottish Government demonstrated their commitment to group B Strep prevention by paying for the print and distribution of the patient information leaflets to all Scottish Health Boards. 55,000 leaflets were sent, to be split across hospitals and maternity units throughout Scotland, so all pregnant women in Scotland should be informed about group B Strep. Also in August, Dan & Birgitta Hobster very bravely shared the loss of their daughter, Natalie, from group B Strep meningitis with the nation on ITV’s This Morning, appearing on the sofa alongside TV doctor and GBSS patron Dr Chris Steele MBE. The response was huge, raising much needed national awareness.

September: More conferences, talking about GBS and raising awareness; the Wales & South West Maternity & Midwifery Festival, where we gave out over 500 information packs about GBS to midwives, and at the IMPRINT annual meeting where Jane Plumb MBE and Volunteer Ambassador Belinda Bowman presented, highlighting the heartbreak that a safe and effective group B Strep vaccine would avoid. IMPRINT focuses on maternal and neonatal immunisation including research into a group B Strep vaccine, and it was a real honour to be invited to present at this very important event.

October: We exhibited at the Royal College of Midwives Conference in Manchester, where over 3,000 delegates gathered for a two-day conference. We gave out thousands of information leaflets and posters on group B Strep, busted many myths and encouraged midwives to check whether their local hospital was following the latest guidelines. This month we also welcomed a new study finding that a future GBS vaccine was highly likely to be cost-effective.

November: We exhibited and spoke at the Scottish Maternity & Midwifery Festival, where Jane Plumb MBE spoke to a packed room of midwives wanting to know more about GBS and best practice. November saw the publication of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’s Each Baby Counts Progress Report, which found that in three-quarters of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and severe brain injuries included in the review, different care might have led to a different outcome.We strongly supported the report’s recommendation that there be a clear policy to ensure that local guidelines are updated in line with national guidance and followed.

December: We published our report on clinical negligence relating to group B Strep, The cost of group B Strep infection. We found that GBS clinical negligence represents a significant burden to families and their babies, both emotionally and financially. This negligence also represents a significant financial burden to the NHS, both through successful clinical negligence cases and through ongoing care for many of the babies who survive. Settled cases and cases where liability had been admitted from just six firms had a combined value of nearly £40 million.

Looking forward to 2019

We have ambitious plans for 2019

  • too often, the first time a Mum or Dad hears about group B Strep is when carriage or a GBS urine infection is detected during pregnancy, or a baby is diagnosed with GBS infection. That’s not good enough. We want to raise more awareness and ensure that all pregnant women are provided with an information leaflet on group B Strep that provides accurate information during and after pregnancy.
  • many midwives don’t feel they have sufficient information about group B Strep – we want to help change that. We will be working with partners to develop evidence based information materials and training specifically to support midwives and doctors.
  • too often the latest recommendations to prevent group B Strep infection in newborn babies have not filtered through to local units’ protocols. As a result, opportunities for prevention are being missed. We will work to identify which maternity units still need to update their local group B Strep prevention guidelines, and work to help them do that.

With your help and support, we are confident we can make a bigger impact than ever before.

A huge thanks for all you have done and looking forward to doing more together in 2019 (and beyond).

The Group B Strep Support Team

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