A couple whose baby daughter died after contracting a Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection have called for pregnant women to be given more information about the risks associated with the bacterial infection.
Brendan and Susan Maguire from Dunmurry were speaking after an inquest into the death of their daughter Hollie, who was just 30 minutes old when she passed away at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital on October 26, 2016.
The couple want others to be aware of the potential risks of GBS, and say pregnant women should be given all the facts and offered the opportunity to go for screening.
Presenting his inquest findings at Laganside Courts on Tuesday, coroner Patrick McGurgan said there had been a “system failure” by the Belfast Health Trust in terms of staff training and a “systems error” regarding the stickers being used by staff to interpret CTG (cardiotocography) readings regarding saltatory fetal heart rate patterns – they quoted an acceptable lower level but no upper limit that would have alerted midwives and doctors that a baby was having difficulties. But despite highlighting failures in the case, Mr McGurgan said they had not affected the tragic outcome.
He ruled that the cause of baby Hollie’s death was congenital pneumonia and Group B Streptococcus.
According to the NHS, most pregnant women who carry GBS bacteria have healthy babies. But experts acknowledge that sometimes GBS infection in newborn babies can cause serious complications that can be life-threatening.
Routine screening for GBS isn’t currently offered in the UK, but women can choose to pay for the procedure privately.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Maguire said: “I think people should be given the choice. They should be given full factual information so they can make the choice.”
The 31-year-old mortgage advisor said people need to be aware that a Group B Strep infection can be fatal.
“They need to be aware that it’s not just as benign as people think. You heard from the coroner, it’s a serious, serious illness when it gets into a baby.
“How can you assess a risk when you can’t see it? The only way you see it is when you test for it.
“People need to be told the risks. They need to know that it can cause death. As the coroner said, it’s not the first and it’ll not be the last. It’s not an uncommon thing.”
The couple, who have a 19-month-old daughter, paid for private GBS screening during their last pregnancy.
But Mrs Maguire, who is five-and-a-half months pregnant, said she hasn’t been given any information about Group B Strep during her current pregnancy.
“It’s about information more than anything,” she said.
“They need to give the information out so women can make the choice.”
The inquest heard that since baby Hollie’s death, a number of changes have been implemented by the trust in terms of staff training and systems relating to the monitoring of saltatory fetal heart rate patterns.
A spokesperson for the Belfast Health 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."
Information about the risks of GBS infection during pregnancy is available online at www.nhs.uk