A baby health charity has accused the Government of “hiding” a public consultation into whether newborns should be screened for a killer disease.
Haywards Heath-based Group B Strep Support said little has been done to raise awareness of a survey into antenatal screening for Group B Streptococcus, the leading cause of severe infection in a baby’s first week of life.
The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) opened a public consultation at the end of July this year but its review is recommending against introducing the tests.
Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, said: “We are worried that the Government is hiding this consultation as it doesn’t want to hear from health professionals working at the coalface or families directly affected by Group B Strep.
“Time and again when we’re talking to health professionals and families, they have no idea a review is under way. It’s shocking that the NSC isn’t doing more to raise awareness of this consultation.”
Group B Strep is a normal bacterium carried by up to 30% of adults. It can be passed from mother to baby around labour. This causes no problems for most babies but for others it can be deadly, causing blood infection, pneumonia and meningitis.
The public consultation is an opportunity for health professionals, members of the public and relevant organisations to comment on the review.
Last month a petition with more than 16,000 signatures was submitted to the Department of Health, calling for better prevention of Group B Strep infection in babies.
A spokesman for the UK National Screening Committee said: “Our current policy is that screening for this condition should not be offered.
“This policy is currently being reviewed as part of the UK NSC’s regular review cycle of all policies.”