Politicians support Group B Strep awareness campaign

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has given his support to a local campaign to raise awareness of Group Strep B.

Mr McGuinness, alongside Junior Minister Martina Anderson, Mark H Durkan MLA , SDLP Health Spokesperson, Mark Durkan MP, Gregory Campbell MP/ MLA and Willie Hay MP, met with families leading the campaign showing the cross party support which has been garnered since launching their campaign just last month. The campaign is being spearheaded by the families of three babies whose lives simply did not begin as a result of Group B Strep infection.

Their message is simple: Group B Strep: ‘B’ Aware ~ ‘B’ Tested ~ Anti-‘B’-otics (if necessary) and they are now calling on the Health Minister to listen to their message, and the messages of all families affected, so that preventative and life-saving changes can be introduced to current antenatal practices.

Mr McGuinness said: “I congratulate all of those involved in the campaign to create awareness of this rare but potentially deadly infection. I am in full support of the campaign goal of routine testing for this condition and find it inconceivable that if such a test is available that it is not carried out as a matter of normal procedure during antenatal care. I welcome the endorsement of representatives from all of the political parties for this campaign”

Speaking on behalf of the ‘B’ Aware Campaign, Jillian Boyd who, together with her husband Andy, lost her precious daughter Erin on the 27th March this year said, “The support for our Group B Strep ‘B’ Aware campaign has been overwhelming. We have been reaching out to other families affected by this common bacteria and have heard some other harrowing and heartbreaking stories along the way. These little babies are becoming seriously ill and dying from a preventable infection. We are pleading with the NI Executive to lead the way in the UK and introduce routine screening to protect our babies. It is within the Health Minister’s power to do so and we urge him not to let any more families suffer for the sake of a simple swab test and course of antibiotics during labour.

MP Gregory Campbell said: “I am fully supportive of the call for more awareness of Group B Strep to be made during antenatal care so that pregnant women can make informed decisions as to how their pregnancy and labour is managed.” Mark H Durkan MLA and Health Spokesperson for the SDLP said: “I have already written to Minister Poots to demonstrate our support of the Group B Strep ‘B’ Aware campaign. As the highest cause of Post Natal infection in newborns, with Northern Ireland unfortunately leading that statistic, this issue needs to be addressed.

The group met today to also acknowledge the £2,750 which was raised from the walk of Derry’s two bridges in memory of Grace McGroarty, daughter of Shauna and Stephen McGroarty, in June of this year. All money raised will go towards the Group B Strep Support charity, who work tirelessly to help those affected by Group B Strep infection and campaign rigorously for change to UK antenatal practices. If you or anyone you know has been affected by Group B Strep and would like to contribute your experience to the campaign, please contact the ‘B’ Aware group on gbsni@hotmail.co.uk