(2) what steps the Government have taken to educate (a) relevant health professionals and (b) pregnant women about the symptoms and prevention of Group B Strep infections in babies;
(3) what representations he has received from the Health Protection Agency on the use of the enriched culture medium (ECM) testing method for detecting Group B Strep in late pregnancy; and if he will bring forward proposals for the ECM test to be available on the NHS.
Current policy, on advice from the United Kingdom National Screening Committee (UK NSC), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is not to offer routine screening for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) carriage to all pregnant women, because there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that this would be beneficial. A cost benefit analysis would usually be commissioned only when the evidence supported screening.
A health technology assessment (HTA) cost effectiveness modelling study, commissioned by the UK NSC, which compared different management strategies for GBS in pregnancy has reported.
The HTA report recommends that the current screening policy should not be changed without further research and that research to evaluate the efficacy of a vaccine for GBS should be prioritised. The researchers also recommend a revision of existing guidelines on current best practice; the RCOG is in the process of initiating a guideline review project which will consider the evidence generated since the first publication in 2003.
A GBS online learning package was produced in collaboration with the user group—Group B Strep Support (GBSS)—and others, which was launched in 2006. The learning package is based on RCOG guidelines and provides a comprehensive multidisciplinary interactive teaching resource which is freely available to all health care professionals at:
Healthcare professionals are encouraged to follow the RCOG’s risk factor based guideline to reduce the incidence of GBS infection in the first week of life.
Patient information on GBS is available from NHS Direct Online and in the NHS Pregnancy Book (updated in 2006) which is distributed free to all pregnant women. The RCOG has also produced patient information.
We are not aware of any representations being received from the Health Protection Agency on the use of the enriched culture medium testing method for detecting Group B Strep in late pregnancy.