Northern Ireland

Mothers-to-be should have GBS infection test

Brendan Maguire and Susan Ho-Maguire
Image caption Brendan Maguire and Susan Ho-Maguire said GBS was a "silent infection"

The parents of a girl who died from a bacterial infection have called for pregnant women to be tested.

Hollie Maguire died shortly after birth at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on 25 October 2016.

A post-mortem examination found the cause of her death was congenital pneumonia, due to Group B Streptococcus (also known as GBS).

On Tuesday, a coroner found errors in the system that treated Hollie, but that they did not cause her death.

GBS is a bacteria which can cause serious illness or death in newborns.

There is a test for GBS, but it is not routinely available on the NHS.

Screening trial

Each year in the UK there are between 400 to 500 babies born with the infection.

Most will fully recover with treatment, but GBS can lead to pneumonia, meningitis and a dangerous blood infection called sepsis.

Last month, it was announced that screening for the infection is to be offered as part of a trial at 80 hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland.

'Silent infection'

An inquest into Hollie's death has been held in Belfast.

Speaking outside court, Brendan Maguire and Susan Ho-Maguire said they wanted to make other expectant parents aware of the risk posed by GBS.

"The risks are very severe and in the words of the coroner himself, it causes serious, serious infection and death," said Mr Maguire.

"We think that all parents should be given at least the opportunity to have the test done, either with the NHS or privately, or given the information as to how they get that test done and they can assess the risk.

"I don't think it's enough to not tell people about it. It's a silent infection."

'Systems failure'

The coroner, Patrick McGurgan, offered the Maguires his sympathies and said he hoped something could be done about GBS in babies.

He told the court: "This is not the first inquest I have had to deal with involving Group B Strep and unfortunately, it won't be the last."

The inquest heard that during labour staff were monitoring Hollie's heartbeat, but they were not aware of the seriousness of the variations in the readings.

The Belfast Trust has since brought in new training and guidelines to address the issue, but the coroner found that at the time, the lack of training in that area was a systems failure

He added that the midwives all acted appropriately throughout, in the context of the training they had been given.

While he identified errors in some of the systems used in Hollie's treatment, they did not affect the outcome.

He concluded that Hollie's death was caused by congenital pneumonia, due to GBS.

In a statement the Trust said: "Belfast Trust extends our sympathies at this very difficult time to Hollie's parents.

"There has been regional learning from Hollie's case and as a result Northern Ireland has changed its processes in relation to the assessment of baby heart monitoring in labour."

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