Sussex babies’ lives ‘put at risk’ after Government decision to not to test for deadly infection

The Argus: Sussex babies’ lives ‘put at risk’ after Government decision to not to test for deadly infection Sussex babies’ lives ‘put at risk’ after Government decision to not to test for deadly infection

A “catastrophic” decision not to specifically test pregnant women for a deadly infection is putting babies’ lives at risk, a charity has warned.

From tomorrow, doctors were due to be allowed to ask for a specific swab for group B streptococcus (GBS) for pregnant women they felt to be at risk.

However the Department of Health has decided not to approve the use of the test, a move condemned by Lindfieldbased charity Group B Strep Support.


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Jane Plumb, from Lindfield, set up the charity in 1996 following the death of her son Theo from the condition. The charity is campaigning for the specific test to be made routinely available.

A generic NHS test already in use looks for various issues in pregnancy but fails to identify GBS in 40% of cases.

GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and is passed on by mothers who carry the bug to their babies.

The charity says routine testing could save the lives of 80 babies a year and stop hundreds more from developing serious complications which can lead to brain damage and limb amputation.

Mrs Plumb said: “This decision flies in the face of the government’s drive for cost-efficiency through early intervention and prevention and totally ignores patient choice.

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"All we want, and what women and their health professionals want is that, when a swab for GBS is taken, health professionals should be able to access a good quality test that’s fit for purpose.

“This was to be introduced from January 1, 2014, but now, under the cover of Christmas, it has been cancelled.

“This decision leaves us way behind other developed countries.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “No mothers or their families should have to experience the pain and loss that this devastating infection can bring.

“Following a meeting with the Group B Strep support group in December 2012, ministers and the chief medical officer agreed that Public Health England should independently investigate the availability of the enriched culture medium test and the clinical indications for its use.

“This work has now concluded, and found that there is no indication for testing high-risk women using ECM methods within current clinical guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and therefore it would be clinically inappropriate to make this test routinely available.”

Comments (4)

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10:26am Tue 31 Dec 13

getThisCoalitionOut says...

Our government's happy to bail out banks, costing £billions but not to spend on the people it is supposedly meant to represent.

This is what you get from the conservatives and lib dems - they are also trying to privatise the NHS because over 74 of our MP's and ministers have financial interests in private health care companies.
Our government's happy to bail out banks, costing £billions but not to spend on the people it is supposedly meant to represent. This is what you get from the conservatives and lib dems - they are also trying to privatise the NHS because over 74 of our MP's and ministers have financial interests in private health care companies. getThisCoalitionOut

11:04am Tue 31 Dec 13

Jane Plumb says...

This is appalling. These tests could and would save babies lives, plus avoid having to treat sick babies and care for babies disabled as a result of group B Strep infection. Just on a financial cost basis, this has to make sense.

We train our health professionals so that they can use their judgement in looking after the families in their care. Then we deny them access to life-saving 'gold standard' tests when they, using that training and professional judgement, want to use them for a patient in their care. It doesn't make sense. These tests are widely available in other developed countries, they're safe, tried and tested, and there's even guidance on how to do them produced by Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency - http://www.hpa.org.u
k/webc/HPAwebFile/HP
Aweb_C/1317132860736
).

The Department of Health statement is bizarre - if the sensitive test wasn't available when the current clinical guidance was produced, how could it be expected to be included?

Bad decision, bad justification. Tragic for families who will not be badly affected by preventable group B Strep infections :(
This is appalling. These tests could and would save babies lives, plus avoid having to treat sick babies and care for babies disabled as a result of group B Strep infection. Just on a financial cost basis, this has to make sense. We train our health professionals so that they can use their judgement in looking after the families in their care. Then we deny them access to life-saving 'gold standard' tests when they, using that training and professional judgement, want to use them for a patient in their care. It doesn't make sense. These tests are widely available in other developed countries, they're safe, tried and tested, and there's even guidance on how to do them produced by Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency - http://www.hpa.org.u k/webc/HPAwebFile/HP Aweb_C/1317132860736 ). The Department of Health statement is bizarre - if the sensitive test wasn't available when the current clinical guidance was produced, how could it be expected to be included? Bad decision, bad justification. Tragic for families who will not be badly affected by preventable group B Strep infections :( Jane Plumb

7:39am Tue 7 Jan 14

nonnazoo says...

*sigh*

You can have vaginal GBS one day, and then not the next. Testing during prenancy won't necessarily save babies lives. You would need to be swabbed when you went into labour, and then the results would come back after you'd delivered anyway!
*sigh* You can have vaginal GBS one day, and then not the next. Testing during prenancy won't necessarily save babies lives. You would need to be swabbed when you went into labour, and then the results would come back after you'd delivered anyway! nonnazoo

8:25am Tue 7 Jan 14

Jane Plumb says...

It is a myth that carrying group B Strep comes and goes so often it's not worth testing for, for which there is no good evidence.

Medical research has shown quite clearly that the result of the GBS-specific tests (the test discussed in the above article) is highly predictive of whether a woman's GBS carriage status for the next 5 weeks after the swabs are taken. This is why, in countries which routinely screen all pregnant women for GBS, they do so at around 35-37 weeks of pregnancy - they are then a very good predictor of the woman's GBS status when she gives birth and also allow sufficient time for the result to come back before she does..

The link to a relevant research paper is at http://www.ncbi.nlm.
nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pu
bmed&Cmd=ShowDetailV
iew&TermToSearch=888
5919&ordinalpos=1&it
ool=EntrezSystem2.PE
ntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_
ResultsPanel.Pubmed_
RVDocSum.

Tests which could give almost instant results in labour would be great - but research so far hasn't found one which is sufficiently accurate, speedy and reasonably priced. When there is, great. In the meantime, babies' lives could be saved by making ECM testing available for health professionals to request for the women in their care in the UK.
It is a myth that carrying group B Strep comes and goes so often it's not worth testing for, for which there is no good evidence. Medical research has shown quite clearly that the result of the GBS-specific tests (the test discussed in the above article) is highly predictive of whether a woman's GBS carriage status for the next 5 weeks after the swabs are taken. This is why, in countries which routinely screen all pregnant women for GBS, they do so at around 35-37 weeks of pregnancy - they are then a very good predictor of the woman's GBS status when she gives birth and also allow sufficient time for the result to come back before she does.. The link to a relevant research paper is at http://www.ncbi.nlm. nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pu bmed&Cmd=ShowDetailV iew&TermToSearch=888 5919&ordinalpos=1&it ool=EntrezSystem2.PE ntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ ResultsPanel.Pubmed_ RVDocSum. Tests which could give almost instant results in labour would be great - but research so far hasn't found one which is sufficiently accurate, speedy and reasonably priced. When there is, great. In the meantime, babies' lives could be saved by making ECM testing available for health professionals to request for the women in their care in the UK. Jane Plumb

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