NHS Failings Causing Avoidable GBS Infections in Babies

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Newborn babies are being put at risk of death or brain injury because NHS staff don’t always follow guidelines to prevent group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) looked at 39 safety incidents and found that GBS played a part in 6 baby deaths, 6 stillbirths and 3 cases of babies sustaining severe brain damage.

This report is a real concern and will make devastating reading for families who’ve been affected in cases such as these, particularly as this infection is treatable.

So what exactly is going wrong within maternity wards? The HSIB report found widespread problems including:

  • Pregnant women not always being given information on GBS
  • Positive GBS tests not being communicated to the mother or noted in case records
  • Staff missing chances to detect when a newborn was unwell

We can only hope that these findings lead to lessons being learned at maternity services across England and Wales to make sure these errors don’t continue to happen.

If you have any concerns about the care you received from NHS maternity services, contact our specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free claims assessment and legal advice. If you have a claim we may be able to deal with your case on a No Win, No Fee basis - ask us for details.

How Simpson Millar Can Help You

If you’ve suffered the tragic loss of a child, a stillbirth or your baby was born with a brain injury because of GBS, and you feel this was partly because of mistakes made by NHS maternity service, our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors can help you.

Our friendly and approachable team of specialists can look at the details of your claim at no cost to you, and let you know if you have a good chance of claiming successfully.

We understand that taking legal action can be daunting, and that it’s hard to talk about a hugely distressing time in your life. However, our specialist Solicitors are committed to making the process as easy for you as possible, tailoring our service to you and being sympathetic to your needs.

If we take on your case, we can handle the complex tasks such as approaching the NHS on your behalf, obtaining your medical records, and if necessary, bringing in one or more independent medical experts to provide reports on the quality of care you received.

Our Medical Negligence Solicitors and Lawyers have a strong track record of helping families get significant amounts of compensation following medical negligence in NHS maternity services. For example:

  • £12 Million Compensation in Medical Negligence Brain Damage Case
  • £3.8 Million Compensation Award in Childbirth Cerebral Palsy Case
  • £3.65 Million Compensation for Medical Negligence Birth Injury

Common Problems Across Maternity Services

Advice to Pregnant Women

Official guidance for maternity staff states that women should be given information on GBS during pregnancy. But the HSIB report found the advice being given to pregnant women wasn’t always sufficient.

As a result, some women didn’t arrive at hospital as soon as they should have done to get the antibiotics they needed while in labour.

Lack of Capacity

Many maternity services staff struggle with competing demands. As a result, some pregnant women aren’t being given a treatment to prevent early-onset GBS disease - called intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis - as soon as they should.

Poor Information Sharing

If a pregnant woman tests positive for GBS, she needs to be told, or it must be clearly noted in her case records. The HSIB found that in some cases, this didn’t happen, so the clinician handling the delivery didn’t give the mother antibiotic treatment.

Missing Warning Signs

The HSIB believes many maternity services staff missed opportunities to detect babies who were unwell. This, it said, may be partly because no early warning score chart to help staff spot danger signs exists.

Jane Plumb, Chief Executive of charity Group B Strep Support (GBSS), has welcomed the report, saying it “reflects much of what families tell us on a daily basis”.

“Health professionals need to be better at listening to new and expectant parents,” she said.

“Hospital Trusts must implement the learning from these tragedies throughout their hospitals and with their staff. Until that happens, avoidable group B strep infections will continue to cause untold and preventable heartbreak to families.”