Baby charity Group B Strep Support has launched a national campaign to ensure that the gold-standard test for a potentially deadly newborn infection is used on the NHS.
The “Why Guess… when you can test?” campaign wants the ‘gold standard’ test for the group B Strep bacteria to be available to all maternity units in the UK. The current test routinely used in hospitals misses up to half those carrying group B Strep, making the result no more accurate than flipping a coin, or simply guessing.
Today Group B Strep Support, in conjunction with the Unison union, is holding a parliamentary launch of its “Why Guess?” campaign at a drop-in event at Portcullis House hosted by Teresa Pearce MP.
Group B Strep is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and of meningitis in babies under age 3 months. Carried naturally by 20-30% of pregnant women, GBS is rarely dangerous to the mother but can have potentially devastating consequences if the bacteria is passed to her baby around labour and birth.
Andrew Gwynne Said:
“It is unacceptable that on average one baby per day develops GBS infection and one baby per week dies from group B Strep infection. I commend the fantastic work of Group B Strep Support and give my full support to the charity. We must put every effort we can in the prevention of GBS, and the introduction of this gold standard test is a must for us to ensure this infection is kept to minimum levels.
“The result of a 2014 audit by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists published earlier this year reported that over half of maternity units are testing some or all pregnant women for group B Strep carriage, but only a handful report using the ‘gold standard’ ECM test. This needs to change.”
Jane Plumb MBE, Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support said:
“The safe, simple and, above all, reliable ECM (Enriched Culture Medium) test for group B Strep carriage in late pregnancy was due to be rolled out to NHS laboratories in January 2014, but at the last minute there was a U-turn. The result of this gold-standard test – which costs the NHS less than £11 – enables decisions to be made based on fact, not guesswork. The current test available for group B Strep carriage within the NHS fails to identify 40-50% of carriers.
“This is appalling complacency – where else would we knowingly continue to use a faulty test when a much more accurate one is available? The ECM test is used in most developed countries – the US, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Poland, and many others. Why are we denying busy doctors and midwives here in the UK access to a test that has been used for decades in many other countries?”