Group B Strep Infection

Group B Strep Infection

Monday 3 December 2018 saw the publication by the charity Group B Strep Support, of their report into the cost of group B Strep (GBS) infection and Wolferstans were pleased to be invited by the charity to contribute to the report with findings from our clients’ cases.

Group B Strep is common, with 20-30% of adults carrying it in the gut and/or vagina with no signs or symptoms. It is vital however to identify pregnant women carrying it, so that antibiotic therapy can be offered when labour starts to reduce, if not prevent, the significant risks to the baby of developing group B Strep infection, which includes sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis.

Despite the potentially dire consequences of the infection, routine testing for GBS is not available on the NHS. Whilst you can carry GBS and deliver a baby quite safely, it can rarely cause serious infection such as sepsis, pneumonia or meningitis.

The report which was commissioned by Group B Strep Support looked at the factors driving parents to take legal action with regard to GBS cases and considered what lessons could be learned from these cases. The report is available at but in summary the findings were:-

  • There were three common areas of medical negligence: A failure to follow local or national guidelines; a failure to escalate cases appropriately; a failure to appreciate the early signs of infection
  • 60% of the 32 cases considered were as a result of a breach of duty of care (negligence) and could have been avoided
  • The most common reason for negligence was a failure to administer IV antibiotics where appropriate.

Having pursued claims for clients who have experienced the loss of a baby through group B Strep infection, or for those whose child has been left severely disabled as a result of group B Strep infection the findings of the report do not surprise Elizabeth Smith, Partner and Head of the Medical Negligence Department at Wolferstans who commented:-

“In my experience the main driving force for clients who contact me to pursue a claim is the need for answers and a lack of understanding about what has happened to their child. For me the most concerning aspect of any claim is when a mother blames themselves for the fact that their child has developed group B Strep infection when they are not in any way at fault.

What is clear from the report is that despite the excellent work that Group B Strep Support does in raising awareness of the infection and campaigning for improved prevention, there are still failings in key areas of medicine. The fact that the report highlights that in the majority of cases that were pursued negligence arose as a result of a failure to give antibiotics in a timely manner, or as a result of a failure to recognise the significance of emerging warning signs of infection shows a clear breach in the hospitals failing to follow established guidelines both at a local and national level.

I am delighted that Group B Strep Support have published their findings into the cost of group B Strep infection. The report clearly demonstrates an ongoing need for better training to staff involved in maternity care on preventing, spotting and treating GBS infection. Whilst the report deals with the cost of group B Strep infection, the main cost is to those families whose lives are devastated by this infection. In some cases this is through no one’s fault but when there is negligence on behalf of the treating medical professionals, the need for financial support for the continuing care of the child is one that can be met by pursuing a successful claim.”

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