Denise Stephens, a Partner and Medical Negligence Solicitor working from Shoosmiths’ Thames Valley office, is currently instructed to represent a child in a medical negligence claim following a failure to provide her mother, who was Group B Streptococcus (GBS) positive, with appropriate antibiotics. As such, the GBS went on to cause a significant infection and resulted in a catastrophic brain injury to her child.
What is Strep B?
Group B Streptococcus is a common bacterium typically found in around 20-40 % of women in the UK. During pregnancy, a woman who is GBS positive will likely have no symptoms. During birth, many babies who come into contact with GBS will also have no issues. However, on occasion a baby can become infected with GBS resulting in serious illness, life-long disability or even death.
The risk of such an infection can be limited by giving a mother, who is GBS positive antibiotics as soon as her waters break or when she is in established labour.
The impact of untreated Strep B in pregnancy
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 1 in every 1750 babies born is diagnosed with early onset GBS infection. Of those diagnosed 1 in 19 (5.2%) will die and, of the survivors, 1 in 14 (7.4%) will have long term disability. At the present time, GBS screening is not routinely offered to pregnant women in the UK.
At around 28 weeks in the pregnancy, our client’s mother attended her local hospital after she suspected her waters had broken. This was confirmed on examination by a doctor working on the maternity ward. The mother was admitted for observation and was ordered to undergo a series of tests namely, a high vaginal swab (to identify whether GBS was present), a mid-stream urine sample and bloods.
She was advised of the risks of pre-term labour and was also told about the risks of chorioamnionitis; an infection of the amniotic fluid, sac and placenta and a possible complication of a GBS infection. The results of the high vaginal swab indicated the presence of GBS infection which was sensitive to Penicillin antibiotics but resistant to erythromycin, another type of antibiotic.
Unfortunately, contrary to the earlier advice she was given, our client’s mother was then told that her waters had not, in fact, broken and that antibiotics were not required. She remained concerned and attended the hospital for further advice. Despite an amnisure test being undertaken, confirming the presence of amniotic fluid, the mother was still not given antibiotics.
Unfortunately, the mother went on to develop chorioamnionitis (a known risk), which triggered pre-term labour. As a result of this her baby sustained significant brain damage and has been diagnosed with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy. Our client now suffers from delayed gross and fine motor development and will require life-long care.
“Even after 24 years of working on behalf of very disabled children and their families, it is still very difficult to accept that, sometimes, basic preventative measures, like the provision of antibiotics when a mother is GBS positive, are not taken. The impact of these failures in care are far reaching and devastating for clients and their families and can so easily be avoided.”
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2023