After losing her son, Edward Gili, last year at just nine days old after he contracted group B Strep infection at birth, Fiona Paddon started a Change.org petition, calling for health secretary Jeremy Hunt to provide pregnant women with tests for Group B Strep (GBS) to prevent the avoidable deaths of newborn babies.
Starting on 1 July 2015, the petition has struck a chord and people have signed in their thousands. Just ten days later, there were almost 130,000 signatures.
“It just doesn’t make sense – a potentially deadly infection, which kills a baby a week, which could be easily identified and prevented and the approach is to, what, leave it to guess work and chance? That is nowhere near good enough, in fact for me, it’s indefensible.” says Fiona.
Jane Plumb MBE, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, said, “Making GBS-specific tests available will reduce death, disability and trauma caused by these infections in newborn babies.
“The human cost of these avoidable infections is immense. Accurate testing would mean that doctors and midwives could stop guessing which Mums are carrying GBS and start testing. This would have the added benefit of enabling them to accurately target antibiotics to the Mums of babies most at risk.
“Other developed countries have shown over decades that routinely testing pregnant women for GBS, and giving carriers antibiotics in labour, is both safe and effective. Early results from a project at Northwick Park Hospital in London show that testing is possible, popular and highly successful in a complex setting.
“Women want to be tested and health professionals are frequently doing so already but with a poor test – over half of UK maternity units test some or all pregnant women – but use a test that misses up to half of all carriers.
“Why is the ‘gold standard’ test not available? We need to stop guessing and start testing.”