Meningitis Now staff - Mark Hunt

Meningitis concerns over failings in Group B strep healthcare

Mark Hunt | 23rd July 2020

Meningitis Now has expressed its concern over the findings in a report published by the Health Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), that shows systemic failings by maternity healthcare professionals to follow national guidelines aimed to limit and protect mothers and unborn babies from Group B streptococcus (GBS) infection*

Concern over failings in Group B strep meningitis healthcare

Of the issues and concerns raised by the report, Meningitis Now and the charity Group B Strep Support are most concerned about:

  • Positive GBS test results not always being communicated to the mothers or noted clearly in their records, resulting in antibiotic treatment being delayed or not given in labour. 
  • Mothers not always being provided with information on Group B strep, despite Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists' advice to do so. 
  • Even in cases where a higher risk of GBS was identified, some mothers were being encouraged to stay at home for as long as possible, resulting in the delay of antibiotic administration.
  • In some cases, early opportunities to identify and escalate the care of unwell babies was missed, resulting in severe brain injury and death for some of the affected babies.

The HSIB has recommended that Trusts providing maternity care should consider the report’s findings, and make changes to their local systems to ensure that mothers and babies receive care in line with national guidance.

Act on the recommendations

Dr Tom Nutt, CEO at Meningitis Now, said, “Group B strep is the UK's most common cause of severe infection in newborn babies, causing sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis. As such we need our maternity care providers to be both aware of national guidelines around GBS and importantly, as stressed by this report, to adhere to them.

“Whilst we recognise the challenges that maternity care providers face in identifying GBS we would encourage them to act on the recommendations contained within this report to ensure mothers and unborn babies are protected."

Download the full HSIB report.

Read more about Group B streptococcal meningitis.

*Some mothers carry GBS in the birth canal, and this can be passed on to the baby during delivery. Occasionally this can cause serious infection in the newborn, such as sepsis, pneumonia or meningitis. Giving antibiotics to these “at risk” mothers during labour reduces the incidence of infection in the baby and can save lives.