As 2017 comes to a close, we want to send a huge thank you to our supporters and everyone who has raised awareness of group B Strep and raised funds for us during the year.

It’s been an incredible year and it is important to take a moment to reflect on some of the achievements your support has made possible, as well as map out our ambitions for 2018.

Eradicating group B Strep (GBS) infection in UK babies remains a huge challenge, but the recommendation by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists earlier this year that all pregnant women should be provided with information about GBS as a routine part of antenatal care is a real step forward on the road to stopping these infections in newborn babies. We are very pleased to have worked in partnership with the RCOG this year to improve awareness and prevention of GBS infection in babies.

We have ambitious plans for 2018, not least making sure every pregnant women gets a leaflet about group B Strep. With your support, we are confident we can make a bigger impact than ever before.

A huge thank for all your support.

The Group B Strep Support Team

Notable events during 2017

January: With Fiona Paddon & Scott Bramley, supporters and MPs, we delivered a petition to the Department of Health in London, calling for GBS screening which had been signed by 250,000 people. Fiona spoke movingly to ITV’s This Morning about the loss of her baby son, Edward, and the campaign to prevent the same happening to other mothers.

February: We responded to the UK National Screening Committee’s report on routine screening for GBS. With our expert Medical Advisory Panel, we carefully examined the report and submitted a detailed response, picking apart the UK NSC’s arguments against screening.

March: We achieved The Information Standard certification. This is effectively the NHS’s badge of approval that a leaflet is evidence-based and trustworthy, so we were delighted to have that recognition. It is vital that families and their health professionals are confident they are accessing accurate and reliable information, and as we update our information materials, we will proudly display The Information Standard quality mark.

April: Two exciting things happened – the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) published their draft updated guidelines on preventing GBS infection. Although this may sound rather dull, it was the first time the RCOG was recommending all women be provided with an information leaflet about group B Strep, and that in some circumstances they should be offered ECM testing.

This month saw publication of the results of a groundbreaking study done at Northwick Park Hospital in London, where a pilot study of screening reduced their rate of GBS infection by 83% (before the pilot, the rate had been about four times the national average). This was the first pilot of GBS screening in the UK, and provided good evidence that screening would work in the UK.

May: We exhibited at the Primary Care and Public Health Conference in Birmingham, talking to over 700 health professionals about group B Strep during the two-day conference. Our stand was in very high demand, there were times when professionals were queuing for information materials or to ask questions.

June: We did a lot of preparing for July, and held a family event in Mid Sussex at the end of June to mark the beginning of Group B Strep Awareness Month. The event was attended by our Patron Sir Nicholas Soames MP.

July: Group B Strep Awareness Month was bigger and better than ever, with thousands of people sharing information about group B Strep and your experiences of GBS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We conducted our survey into the impact of early-onset GBS infection, with over 900 families sharing their experiences with us, helping us develop a much clearer picture of the real impact GBS infection has on the whole family.

August: The new partnership working with the RCOG on a joint patient information leaflet about group B Strep in pregnancy was announced. We were pleased to help shape the information provided in that leaflet, sharing the key questions we’re asked all the time about group B Strep, and helping to make it the best it can be.

September: The updated clinical guideline on preventing early-onset group B Strep infection was published by the RCOG and we spent much of our time talking about these new guidelines, and working on the joint leaflet. We spoke to press and media outlets, and our Chief Executive, Jane Plumb MBE, appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

October: We welcomed Dr Sonali Kochhar MD to our Medical Advisory Panel. Dr Kochhar has worked for over twenty years in a leadership position for Global Phase I-IV Clinical Research Epidemiology and Safety Studies for Vaccines and Drugs including vaccines for pregnant women, infectious diseases and maternal and child programs which are conducted in USA, Europe, Asia, Africa and India in adult and paediatric populations. As a GBS vaccine becomes more close to becoming a reality, Dr Kochhar’s expertise will be invaluable.

November: November was a month of conferences – we attended the RCM conference at the start of the month, updating midwives on the latest RCOG guidelines, and giving away our summaries of the key recommendations. We had a poster presentation at the Meningitis Research Foundation biannual conference, Meningitis and Septicaemia in Children and Adults 2017. Our poster, which presented topline results of the survey into the impact of early-onset GBS infection, was one of just 5 to be invited for oral presentation. And, finally, at the end of the month, we gave a talk to the Scottish Midwifery Festival describing the survey results and the updated RCOG guidelines.

December: With the RCOG, we launched our joint patient information leaflet on group B Strep in pregnancy. The leaflet was supported by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and discussed in the House of Commons by Melanie Onn MP, Mims Davies MP and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health, Steve Brine MP.  We will meet with the Minister in early 2018 to discuss how the Government can support our work raising awareness of group B Strep.

2017 has seen changes that will mean fewer newborns in future will suffer from group B Strep infection than before.

We continue to support offering routine screening for GBS to all pregnant women, since this would prevent more of these infections than a risk-based strategy. However, until that is available, the steps taken in 2017 will help so many families.

None of this could have been possible without your support, and our sincere thanks to you all. Here’s to a happy, healthy and successful 2018!

The Group B Strep Support Team