A mother who lost her son to an infection which could have been caught whilst she was pregnant has helped deliver a petition to the Department of Health – urging for routine tests.
Tania Holmes, 33, from Goring-by-Sea in Worthing, lost her son, Blake, at just 25 hours old in 2009, after doctors failed to recognise she had an easily-preventable bacterial infection called group B strep (GBS).
The 33-year-old joined bereaved parents, Fiona Paddon and Scott Bramley, from Greenwich, in London last Monday (January 23), who also lost their son, Edward, to the bacterial infection.
The petition was set up by Fiona in 2014 and Tania immediately became involved along with the charity, Group B Step Support.
She said: “It feels really exciting to get to this position and I am feeling positive as we have got this far.
“Eight years ago when I lost Blake people like myself had never heard of GBS and now people are aware of it and I am so thankful to everyone who signed the petition.”
The petition calls on the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, the chief medical officer for England, professor Dame Sally Davies and the chief executive of Public Health England, Dr Duncan Selbie to ensure sensitive testing for GBS is routinely and freely available for all pregnant women in the UK.
GBS is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and of meningitis in babies up to the age of three months.
It is a normally-occuring bacterium which is found in many men and women. For most, it is harmless, but if it is passed from mother to baby, it can cause long-term health problems or even be fatal.
Fiona was also not aware of the infection until after having Edward and this led her to start the petition which gained 256,000 signatures.
She said: “The level of support it has received is well beyond any target I could have imagined and I feel that I am here to speak with the force of quarter of a million voices to those with the power to stop GBS from wrecking any more lives.”
Routinely offering the tests could prevent more than 80 per cent of infections in newborn babies born to women carrying the bacteria, and would cost only £11 per test, a spokesman from Group B Strep Support said.
Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West was also present and in support of the petition.
He said: “I expect the Government to adopt this policy that the campaigners seek. It makes sense and will most importantly save lives.”
Sir Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid Sussex and a GBS patron also attended and applauded Fiona and Scott for their ‘brave work’.
He said: “We must change what we do – by informing all expectant parents of GBS, and offering women the opportunity to be tested in pregnancy – to reduce these awful infections in newborn babies.”
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