As 2021 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.
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, supporting research and continuing to push for change. We want to take a moment to reflect on some of the achievements you’ve made happen, and to outline some of our plans for 2022.
Highlights of 2021
January to March:
We published and distributed our report on UK hospitals failing to follow guidelines on group B Strep. Only a tiny number of NHS Trusts are following national recommendations from medical bodies around giving pregnant women information on group B Strep, offering testing to some pregnant women, and following PHE guidelines on how to test for group B Strep carriage. As a result, pregnant women face a postcode lottery, potentially receiving significantly different care from the recommended practice. You can read the full report here.
Following meetings with Nadine Dorries MP, then Minister of State for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, she wrote to CEOs of all NHS trusts about group B Strep, making clear that they should “ensure that they are using the ECM testing as of the moment they receive the letter”.
We proudly announced that our 2021 virtual Group B Strep in Pregnancy & Babies Conference would be taking place on 2 June 2021.
We welcomed our new Support Care Administrator to the team. Marta helps to manage the charity’s fundraising challenges and to look after our fantastic supporters.
We held the first of a series of Facebook fundraising challenges. The 62 miles in March challenge raised an incredible £19,207. It was moving to see so many passionate participants sharing motivation and reasons for taking part.
April to June:
World Meningitis Day was on 24 April, as we shared moving stories of families affected by GBS meningitis. International Day of the Midwife was on 5 May, which was an opportunity to thank them for their work, and particularly for continuing to support families and babies throughout the pandemic.
Our Group B Strep in Pregnancy & Babies Conference was a must-attend event for all those interested in finding out more about GBS. Speakers included Carol J Baker (Professor of Pediatrics, McGovern Medical School, University of Texas, Sabin Gold Medal winner, National Academy of Sciences, USA), Prof Androulla Efstratiou (Imperial College London and Director, WHO Global Collaborating Centre for Diphtheria & Streptococcal Infections), Professor Paul Heath, Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at St George’s University of London and Prof Anne Mackie (Director of Screening for Public Health England). Over 350 delegates registered for the event, with over 250 attending live on the day. Delegates took part from countries as far away as Australia and South Africa. There were some lively Q&A sessions and fascinating discussions on group B Strep. Read our Conference round-up and the full programme here.
Iwan Thomas MBE, the fabulous Olympic and Commonwealth Games sprinter, ran an epic 100 mile run along the South Downs Way. Iwan ran to raise awareness of group B Strep and raise funds, and has raised almost £25,000 for the charity after his son, Teddy, developed GBS infection shortly after birth. Read more here.
July to September:
July’s Group B Strep Awareness Month saw a huge range of awareness-raising activities. Highlights included translating the Group B Streptococcus in Pregnancy & Newborn Babies leaflet into 14 additional languages. All are available for digital download. This leaflet was written in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and is aimed particularly at pregnant women and new parents.
In July, we also hosted our 3000 Squats in July Facebook fundraising Challenge. 270 amazing fundraisers raised an astonishing £24,469.18 – thank you one and all!
We hosted a webinar on group B Strep where experts presented key information on group B Strep, the GBS3 trial, and the challenges that GBS presents for midwives caring for families today.
We distributed our Spring/Summer 2021 printed newsletter showcasing what the charity and our supporters have been doing during the first half of 2021 – we are so grateful to everyone who showed their support, by fundraising, by raising awareness and by donating to us. It makes such a difference.
Having responded to the Maternity Safety Consultation for the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, we were pleased to see their report acknowledged group B Strep as “the most frequently identified cause of severe infection in newborns”.
20 September marked 25 years since Group B Strep Support was registered as a charity by Jane and Robert Plumb, six months after their baby Theo died aged 17 and a half hours from group B Strep infection. Jane reflected on the anniversary: “There’s been so much progress and improvement over the years. Robert and I are so grateful for everyone who has supported the charity over the last 25 years. But we don’t want the charity to need to be here in another 25 years – we want to have eradicated GBS infection in babies, and closed down.”
In September, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched its Global Roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030 and highlighted group B Strep as one of the main causes of meningitis across the world. Group B Strep Support is proud to have contributed to the creation of this strategy.
October to December:
We observed Baby Loss Awareness Week, remembering the babies who sadly died as a result of group B Strep infection, and raising awareness about pregnancy and baby death in the UK.
The WHO’s report on the global impact of GBS was launched, highlighting the urgent need for a GBS vaccine. It reported that the global burden of group B Strep is far higher than previously recognised and that new vaccines would not only help reduce the numbers of babies who contract GBS infection globally, but also save money.
We were proud to lead the Parent Power stream at the International Symposium on Streptococcus agalactiae Disease (ISSAD). Families from around the world shared their moving stories about how group B Strep affected them, alongside presentations from renowned experts from around the world. The next ISSAD event will be held in Rio in 2023 – we’re already looking forward to it!
In November we pledged our support for the Pregnancy & Baby Charities Network (PBCN) manifesto. The PBCN, of which GBSS has been a member for over 15 years, is an important partnership working to save babies’ lives and support families.
Our 300,000 Steps in November challenge again attracted huge support, and raised a total of £24,474.21. While raising vital funds, so much awareness was raised and, in the Facebook group for all participants, it was humbling to hear so many sharing their stories of how GBS had affected them and their families.
The BBC shared news of the inquest surrounding the tragic loss of Archie Powell due to group B Strep infection, and the impact on his grieving family. We’ll work hard to keep group B Strep at the forefront of national news going into 2022 and beyond.
We undertook a review of the charity’s strategy at GBSS – particularly thinking about what we’re doing, where we want to see change, the things needed to achieve that, and how we’ll go about it. As part of our consultation phase, we spoke with key partners and stakeholders, and conducted an online survey, with almost 400 contributors. We also worked closely with our Trustees and our staff, and the key findings were presented to the Board at the December meeting. The next step is to finalise the 2022-24 strategy, after which we will share highlights with our supporters.
Looking forward to 2022
While times continue to be uncertain, we know we can continue to build on the work we’ve done throughout 2021:
- We’ll work with the Royal Colleges and other professional bodies to ensure our information materials are appropriate for their members and for the families in their care
- We’ll 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 support the GBS3 trial and other clinical trials that will lead to better group B Strep prevention, identification and treatment
- We’ll campaign and engage 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’ll 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 two-day virtual conference on group B Strep – Group B Strep in Pregnancy and Babies on 12 & 13 July 2022. 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 dates – we’ll send out more information soon.