Helping Harry: How Failing to Spot Strep B Can Lead to Cerebral Palsy


Harry is a 3 year old boy who contracted meningitis shortly after birth; this caused him to have cerebral palsy. But Harry's cerebral palsy could have been avoided – Carley Ross is a solicitor specialising in medical negligence and is supporting Harry's case, she explains here how negligence in spotting and treating Strep B can have life-changing consequences.

Babies are vulnerable enough

Harry's Story

Harry has spastic quadriplegia, a form of cerebral palsy which affects all of his limbs and his ability to control balance and co-ordination. Carley is currently working with Harry and his family on a medical negligence case as it was found that Harry's cerebral palsy could have been avoided.

Harry's mother had undergone tests during pregnancy and one of these tests had indicated a positive for Group B Streptococcus (GBS). This result was never reported – if it had been – Harry's mother would have been given antibiotics and Harry may not have been exposed to the GBS virus that caused his meningitis.

We are continuing to work with Harry's family to secure compensation so they can access the therapies and rehabilitation he needs for the best chances in future.

Harry's family are also hoping to raise enough money to take him for specialist treatment in the US; this is an operation called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) and could improve Harry's muscle spasticity. This could finally give Harry the chance to walk independently.

You can help Harry by donating to his JustGiving page

What is GBS and Why is it Dangerous?

GBS is a type of bacteria that can live inside your body; having GBS is normal and the NHS website estimates that around 1 in 5 pregnant women carry GBS.

Whilst GBS doesn't usually harm adults carrying the bacteria, it can be incredibly dangerous for babies exposed to it during birth.

Not all babies will be infected after being exposed at birth, but for babies who are, the consequences can be devastating. It's important for medical professionals to recognise and treat babies who show signs of a GBS infection, or else it can lead to more serious complications such as:

  • Blood poisoning (septicaemia),
  • Lung infection (pneumonia), or
  • Infection of the lining of the brain (meningitis).

The NHS website notes that around 1 in 10 babies with a GBS infection will die, and 1 in 5 will be affected permanently.

Permanent problems caused by GBS infection include:

  • Cerebral palsy,
  • Learning difficulties,
  • Blindness,
  • Deafness.

Routine testing for GBS is not carried out it in the UK; the reasons for this being that GBS tests are taken 3-5 weeks before the due date, but this status could have changed by the time of birth. The uncertainty over test results means women could be given antibiotics unnecessarily.

Professionals must instead rely on issued guidance to make a decision; this uses a 'risk factor' approach which asses the likelihood of GBS on factors such as whether the woman has a high temperature during labour or if waters broke prematurely.

The charity Group B Strep Support has a 'Why Guess When You Can Test' campaign to call for this guesswork approach to end and for women to be able to access the GBS test.

Group B Strep Negligence

If GBS isn't identified or treated by medical professionals, the consequences can be devastating. Babies can be left fighting for their lives or with severe disabilities; in many cases this could have been avoided entirely.

As Harry's experience shows, the impact of a negligent GBS infection can be life-changing. If your child has suffered a GBS infection due to the negligence of medical professionals, legal help can ensure your child gets the support they need for the best chances in life.

Our solicitors at Simpson Millar specialise in all aspects of medical negligence and birth injury claims; we'll support you every step of the way, helping you get a result that means you can move forward with your life.

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