As 2020 draws to a close, we want to thank everyone who has supported and helped the charity throughout the year – raising awareness of group B Strep, raising funds, or working with us to campaign for change. However you’ve been involved, our sincere thanks to each and every one of you for your support.
Despite the particularly challenging circumstances the pandemic created, the charity has achieved a lot this year, providing information and support to those who need us, raising the issue of group B Strep prevention with Ministers, and continuing to push for change. We want to take a moment and reflect on some of the achievements you’ve made happen, and to outline some of our plans for 2021.
Highlights of 2020
January: We exhibited at two conferences this month, one specifically for midwives and the other on patient safety in maternity, and started our new quarterly Facebook groups specifically aimed at women who are current pregnant.
February: New research published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that where pregnant women were routinely tested for group B Strep carriage, there were lower rates of early-onset group B Strep infection than programmes that either used risk-based prevention strategies, or had no prevention strategy.
March: The March COVID-19 lockdown provided challenges for everyone, including our team, but we worked hard to conquer home-working as quickly as possible so that the families and health professionals would not be impacted by the change. With the exception of some un-office-like noises in the background during calls and meetings, the inevitable ‘you’re on mute’ comments that became common parlance, we worked to ensure our services continued to be offered as before.
April: We raised awareness of group B Strep meningitis as part of World Meningitis Day on 24 April, and celebrated World Immunization Week, joining a week of webinars hosted by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Our Chief Executive Jane Plumb MBE took part in a webinar with Professor Beate Kampmann (Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity, Director of the Vaccine Centre at LSHTM) and Professor Joy Lawn (Professor of Maternal, Reproductive and Child Health, Director of the March Centre at LSHTM). They highlighted the potential group B Strep vaccines for pregnant women that are being researched, explored the burden of group B Strep disease and the work of the charity to support families affected by group B Strep. You can listen here.
May: On 5th May, we celebrated the International Day of the Midwife. Jane Plumb and GBSS Community Ambassador Lynsey White spoke about group B Strep at Maternity & Midwifery Forum’s event – you can access the session here. Lynsey bravely shared her experience of losing her first baby, Frankie, as a result of group B Strep infection and how GBS impacted her next pregnancies. May also saw the announcement that, after campaigning from GBSS, NHS Resolution (the NHS body that deals with legal claims) has added a code to their systems specifically for group B Strep infections. This is a real step forward as it means it will now be possible to find out how much group B Strep clinical negligence claims are costing the NHS.
June: Together with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have produced an evidence-based i-learn module on group B Strep that is available free of charge to members of the RCM.
July: We had a huge range of awareness-raising activities going on as part of July’s Strep B Awareness Month. Highlights included our new awareness videos, and hosting our very first webinar with our GBSS Medical Advisory Panel chair Prof Philip Steer and Jane Plumb. A national learning report compiled by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) was published, highlighting failures to follow national guidelines to prevent group B Strep infections in babies.
August: This month we printed and distributed our Spring/Summer 2020 printed newsletter showcasing what the charity and our supporters have been doing during the first half of 2020 – we are so grateful to everyone who continued to show their support, by fundraising, by raising awareness and by donating to us. It makes such a difference.
September: We joined over 70 health organisations endorsing a statement on the future of health improvement and raising serious concerns with Government about plans to reorganise the public health system. We said a fond goodbye to the Chair of our Trustees, Susan Gregory, and Trustee, Chloe Stables, and wish them well in their new ventures, and we started recruiting for a new Chair and new Trustees.
October: We observed Baby Loss Awareness Week, remembering babies who sadly died as a result of group B Strep infection, and raising awareness about pregnancy and baby death in the UK. A storyline in the TV drama Hollyoaks reflected the experience of too many families, as baby Faith developed a late-onset group B Strep infection.
November: We warmly welcomed our new Chair and six new trustees to our Board. We were delighted to see an international plan to defeat group B Strep meningitis endorsed by the World Health Assembly. The “Defeating meningitis by 2030: a global road map” aims to defeat the main causes of bacterial meningitis (meningococcus, pneumococcus, haemophilus influenzae and group B Strep) and reduce the huge burden of meningitis around the world.
December: The interim findings were published of the independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals (SATH) NHS Trust by a team led by midwifery expert Donna Ockenden. It outlined how some mothers were blamed for their babies’ deaths, others were denied appropriate care, concerns about the mother or her baby were not escalated to the right people or in a timely way, and deaths were often not investigated properly. The BBC shared a family’s story of their tragic loss due to group B Strep infection. We’ll work hard to keep group B Strep at the forefront of national news going into 2021 and beyond.
Looking forward to 2021
While times continue to be uncertain, we are certain that we will continue to build on the work we’ve done throughout 2020:
- We’ll work with the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health as we update our leaflets providing information on babies who develop group B Strep infection
- We’ll work with the Institute of Health Visiting to provide the information health visitors need to support the families in their care
- We’ll continue to improve awareness of group B Strep and encourage more hospitals to use our leaflets and posters, so that expectant and new parents are fully informed about group B Strep and able to make informed decisions about their care
- We’ll continue to support the GBS3 trial, launched in April 2020 and support other clinical trials that will lead to better group B Strep prevention, identification and treatment
- We’ll keep campaigning and engaging with politicians, government bodies and other decision makers across the UK to ensure group B Strep is a top priority, and all babies are given the best start in life
- We will work tirelessly to stop group B Strep infection in babies, and to support families who have been affected.
And, we’re excited to be organising a one-day virtual conference on group B Strep – Group B Strep in Pregnancy and Babies on Wednesday, 2 June 2021. It will be a fully virtual conference, aimed mostly at health professionals, though we know that some families will also be interested. Please save the date – we’ll send out more information in the New Year.