Anger over U-turn in tests for deadly disease in babies

Gazette: Su and Emily Newton Su and Emily Newton

FAMILIES affected by a potentially deadly childbirth infection have criticised a Government U-turn on testing.

Mums fear the decision not to give medics access to a more accurate swab for Group B Strep will prove fatal.

Pressure group Group B Strep Support says the general test available now misses two in five cases.

The Department of Health says it will not introduce the test, available privately for about £35.

Su Newton, of Worsdell Way, Colchester, who nearly lost daughter Emily after she was born with the infection, said: “It was a really scary time.

“We had that awful scenario where we were taken into a side room and told how poorly our baby was and she might not make it.

“Luckily she was a fighter and she overcame it. But this was preventable.”

Jane Plumb, chief executive of Strep B Support, said meetings with the Government 12 months ago led to promises the “gold standard” test would be made available from tomorrow.

However, the decision has been reversed. Mrs Plumb said: “It leaves us way behind other developed countries.”

The support group believed the Government would introduce the test for pregnant women deemed at high risk of contracting Group B Strep.

Mrs Newton hoped it would be the first step towards routine testing for all pregnant women.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Following a meeting with the Group B Strep Support in December last year, ministers and the chief medical officer agreed Public Health England should investigate the availability of the test.

“This work has concluded and found it would be clinically inappropriate to make this test routinely available.”

GROUP B streptococcus is a bacterial infection, dormant in about a third of us, which can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland about one baby a day has a Group B Strep infection.

One in ten die and one in 20 will suffer long-term physical or mental disabilities.

The infection is largely preventable when antibiotics are given to women in labour.

Denise Huk, from Mistley, lost her daughter Cara at just 16 hours old to the illness, ten years ago.

She said: “It’s really frustrating the Government got within a few days of offering the test and has now withdrawn it. It would save lives. I think it all comes down to money.

“It just seems like it is one of the last priorities. David Cameron has lost a child and knows the pain of losing a child.

“I don’t think you can measure the cost to a family of losing a baby.”

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