Group B Strep Support - Press Release - 12 December 2012
Group B Strep Support
Leading baby charity devastated by decision not to introduce life saving screening for newborn babies

For immediate release

Today the baby charity Group B Strep Support said it was devastated by the decision of the UK National Screening Committee against introducing routine screening of pregnant women for group B Strep.
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies[1].  It is a normally harmless bacterium carried by up to 30% of the population[2] and most babies are not affected by it.  However, when it does cause infections, these can be devastating.
In the UK, approximately 340 babies per year develop GBS infection within seven days of birth.  Of those infected babies, one in ten will die[3] of blood poisoning, pneumonia or meningitis. Around one in five survivors will be permanently affected by cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or serious learning difficulties[4]
Jane Plumb MBE, Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support said
“The decision not to recommend routine screening for group B Strep is devastating news.  Every year, hundreds of newborn babies suffer illness, disability and death due to group B Strep.  This decision means yet more babies suffer from preventable infection, some of whom will die or survive with life-long disabilities.
In countries where routine screening has been introduced, GBS infections in babies have fallen dramatically, while here in the UK they have continued to rise.
I am at a loss to understand why the Committee refuses to see that the current situation in the UK is unacceptable and that the introduction of routine screening is the best way forward.
At a recent Royal College of Midwives conference, we asked 214 midwives if they supported antenatal screening for GBS, 75% said a routine offer of screening should be introduced.
Recent polling also showed overwhelming support from women themselves for screening, over 90% supported the introduction of routine screening and even the Prime Minister supported the campaign when he was in Opposition, yet the UK National Screening Committee has refused to budge and is sticking to an outdated and discredited approach to prevention that is not working.”

GBS infection is increasing in the UK.  Since prevention guidelines were introduced in 2003, the number of newborn babies reported to have had GBS infection in England, Wales & Northern Ireland has risen by 23%[5].
A 2011 survey[6] of 1,000 UK women found that 92% would welcome the opportunity of screening.  In addition, four recent reports have been commissioned through the Government’s Health Technology Assessment Programme to establish how to combat preventable GBS infection in newborn babies.  All found routine screening to be more cost-effective and/or clinically effective than the current approach based on risk factors which are poor predictors of GBS carriage.

In deciding against the introduction of screening, the UK National Screening Committee is flying in the face of the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the consultation comments they received from families, health professionals, charities and professional bodies.  In total, they received 212 written responses in total, publishing 207 on their website. Of these, 93% were in favour of introducing screening for group B Strep in pregnancy (click here).  

 William Caisley, fighting group B Strep infection
Ruth Caisley from Haltwistle said,
“My son William (pictured right) is 17 now. He was born at 4.22 am and within 24 hours had stopped breathing.  He had group B Strep infection.  He was placed on a ventilator and spent 6 weeks in intensive care fighting for his life – at one point, we were told to turn off the ventilator that was keeping him alive.  William survived but has mild four-limb cerebral palsy, ADHD and learning difficulties.  

I’d never heard of group B Strep.  Luckily, because of GBSS’s website, I knew when I had my daughter, Bobbi, nine years later to insist on having antibiotics in labour and she is fine. 
The decision not to offer pregnant women screening for group B Strep is disgusting - if someone in the public eye had a baby sick with this infection, they would do something about it.  Every pregnant woman should be offered a test for it.  They routinely test you for loads of things that can't be prevented – with a group B Strep test it means you can protect your healthy baby from devastating disease. 
It costs so much to look after a sick baby and then there’s the life-long care needed – physio, special schooling, etc – compared with the cost of a simple £12 test."

Alison Lovatt from Chorley said,
Jack in Manchester Children's Hospital 
“My little boy Jack (pictured right) nearly died from group B Strep.  He was 3 days old and in the Intensive Care Unit when we were told to prepare for him not to survive.  He's now 3, our little miracle and absolutely fine.  We are doing all we can to raise awareness and prevent it happening to someone else.

I am absolutely devastated by the news that the National Screening Committee is not recommending introducing screening for group B Strep.  This is an insult to all our babies who have suffered and all the other babies of the future who will suffer this terrible devastating infection from sheer ignorance of mums who would do anything to prevent it if only they knew.  
I've been telling everyone about it - at least three of my friends have tested positive for group B Strep and they wouldn't have known about it otherwise."

[1] RCOG. Prevention of early onset neonatal group B Streptococcal disease. Green top guideline 36, 2003.
[2] American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Committee Opinion: No 279: Prevention of Early onset Group B Streptococcal Disease in Newborns.  Obstet Gynecol 2002; 100 (6): 1405-1412.
[3] BMJ Group patient leaflet, Infection in newborn babies (group B streptococcus), March 23 2009. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd 2009.
[4] J Med Screen.  Maternal screening to prevent neonatal Group B streptococcal disease.  Journal of Medical Screening 2002; 9 (4)
[5] Health Protection Agency Pyogenic and non-pyogenic streptococcal bacteraemia, England, Wales and Northern Ireland: 2011 Health Protection Report [serial online] 2012; 6(46): Bacteraemia for the 2011 data.
[6] ComRes Survey  of 1,000 20-35 year old women in the UK online between 28th October and 1 November 2011.  interviewed 1,000 20-35 year old women in the UK online between 28th October and 1st November 2011.  Data was weighted to be demographically representative of 20-35 year old women in the UK.  The full data tables are available at

Notes for Editors:
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Notes to the Editor
  • Group B Strep Support is a UK charity founded in 1996 to improve the prevention of group B Strep infection in newborn babies. 
  • 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: for others can be deadly, causing blood infection, pneumonia and meningitis. 
  • Group B Strep is the most common cause of life threatening infection in newborn babies.  Since the introduction of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists’ prevention guidelines in 2003, the reported number of these infections in babies has increased significantly.  In babies aged 0-90 days, the reported number has increased from 340 to 473 between 2003 and 2011 (up by 39%).  In babies aged 0-6 days, the reported number has increased from 229 to 281 (up by 23%) .  These increases come despite the expectation of significant falls in group B Strep infections in newborn babies following the introduction of the RCOG's guidelines.  Data sourced from annual CDR/Health Protection Reports at 
  • A report on preventable death and disability caused by GBS calls for routine screening as incidence continues to rise in  the UK was launched by Group B Strep Support at House of Commons event on 28 June 2012
  • Newborn babies are at higher risk of developing group B Strep infection if there are certain ‘risk factors’ present during the pregnancy, labour and delivery.  These are:  Mum carrying group B Strep during the current pregnancy, Mum having a urinary tract infection caused by group B Strep during the current pregnancy, a previous sibling having developed group B Strep infection, Mum’s waters breaking more than 18 hours before delivery, labour starting or waters breaking before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy and Mum having a fever in labour. 
  • A few NHS trusts make sensitive testing for group B Strep available to pregnant women at the request of their health professionals, but most don’t.  A number of private medical laboratories do – packs containing the necessary swabs are supplied free, with the postal service for carrying out the test costs around £35.  See for the availability of sensitive testing following the Health Protection Agency’s BSOP58 from NHS trust and private laboratories.  Group B Strep Support has no links and receives no money from any laboratory. 
  • Group B Strep Support provides information and support to families and health professionals affected by group B Strep.  It is the UK’s only charity dedicated to the prevention of group B Strep infection in newborn babies and provides comprehensive and reliable information on group B Strep, both printed and online.  Group B Strep Support is supported by an independent medical advisory panel

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