Parliamentary Debates

Group B Streptococcus

Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP):   I thank Margaret McDougall for bringing this very important debate to the chamber this evening.

The death of any child is very traumatic for the parent, especially if it happens at a time when they should be in a state of joy and celebration. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a newborn or a small infant die when everyone else is hoping to celebrate. It must have been a dreadful situation for the parents of Lola. Certainly if it is preventable, we should try to ensure that it is prevented.

Margaret McDougall said that the current evidence from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has to some extent been overtaken. In looking at the royal college’s website, I noted that it did another evidence-based survey to look at the whole issue of GBS. It concluded in December 2014 that the situation should remain the same and there should be no routine screening. I find that strange to some extent, given that it was updating the information.

As Margaret McDougall said, it is felt that there is a benefit to screening, not just to the families who are expecting a lovely newborn but to the baby who will suffer the consequences of Strep B. The consequences for the newborn baby are not particularly nice. For some, Strep B can lead to meningitis, which can cause deafness, blindness and other symptoms. Sometimes those symptoms are short-lived, but I dare say that parents of those young babies go through a very traumatic time, when they are full of anxiety, not knowing whether their little baby is going to live or not.

There is a risk and we have to be mindful of it. If the clinicians are stating that there is a risk in carrying out the process routinely, perhaps we should listen. However, they also state that, in the high-risk categories, there is not a problem with going ahead with the screening. We should perhaps be looking at the criteria for what is high risk and what is not. It is crucial that we ensure that parents have the information available to them. They need the information so that they can be informed in making a choice.

There are occasions when parents’ choice is perhaps better than clinical choice. If the expectant parents believe that it is in their interests and the interests of their newborn baby, or their baby who is to be born, to do the test, that test should be carried out.

I hope that, when the minister sums up, she will take cognisance of parental choice against clinical choice.


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