31 July 2018
There’s been some welcome news for campaigners who previously supported the introduction of ‘strep B’ – Group B Streptococcus (GBS) – testing for all pregnant women.
The Scottish Government’s new Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has told me that, based on previous advice from the UK Chief Scientific Advisor, a trial for the test has now been recommended by the Health Technology Assessment commissioning panel with an announcement and contract expected to be announced this autumn.
I wrote to the previous Health Secretary on behalf of North Uist resident Ada Campbell who supported a Scotland-wide petition asking for the introduction of the test in 2015.
Mrs Campbell was keen to know if there had been any progress with bringing in the new test to avoid the number of tragic neo-natal deaths due to Strep B infections – around 340 new born babies per year in the UK die from it.
Mrs Campbell’s daughter had a Strep B infection as a young child and ended up with a serious kidney condition but fortunately made full recovery, although still needed check-ups at Yorkhill Children’s Hospital.
“It is a really nasty bug and having been through this with my daughter I know how dangerous it can be, especially in the case of new born babies,” said Mrs Campbell.
“A friend in Uist went through this recently with a new born grandchild on the mainland having to be placed in intensive care.
“I do not think babies should be put at risk of contracting this dangerous infection.
“It is good news that there has been movement at last and I do hope that this will lead to lives of children being saved throughout the country.”
I welcome the new information but more detail are needed about where the trial would be based and how it would be run.
I’m looking forward to the details of the announcement later this year and do hope that the trial will be in Scotland and rolled out across our region.
Anything which can save lives and stop the distressing death of a new-born baby has to be welcomed with open arms.
Campaigners lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament in December 2015 calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to ensure all pregnant women receive information about Group B Strep and are given the option to be tested; and to set aside funding to find more reliable methods of testing.
In her letter to me, Ms Freeman said: “On the basis of advice from the Chief Scientific Advisor for the Minister of Health, it was agreed that the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) should commission a UK wide clinical trial to compare universal screening for GBS against usual risk-based care.
“The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) commissioning panel has met to consider applications for this trial and recommended that it is of a suitably high standard to be approved. A further update on this is anticipated in the early autumn with a view to contracting and announcing. The protocol will then appear in the NIHR journals library.”
Group B Streptococcus or ‘strep B’ is one of many bacteria that can be present in people’s bodies. It usually lives harmlessly inside the digestive system and in some women’s reproductive systems.
It is estimated that around one in every four pregnant women have strep B bacteria in their reproductive or digestive system and there is a small risk that it can pass to the baby during childbirth.
Most babies exposed to strep B will be unaffected, but around 1 in every 2,000 babies can become infected. Most babies who become infected will be treated successfully and will make a full recovery, however there is a chance they could die as a result of complications such as meningitis. One in 10 babies born with the infection will die from it.
The original petition is on this link