The state of maternity services – what community pharmacy can do to help

There is little doubt that we are watching maternity services stretched beyond belief. There are 1,400 mistakes being recorded every week. And some of these mistakes are devastating, causing death or severe disability. My heart goes out to the parents and to the staff. It is just not fair.

Surprisingly I note that the Secretary of State, My Jeremy Hunt, ordered an investigation into a cluster of baby deaths. He has put his hand in the Department of Health’s pocket and spent some money – well done Sir. He has also committed the NHS to reducing deaths by 50% by 2030. In a strange way I do hope that he is re-elected and put back in the role to deliver this promise. I have a feeling that he will try his best – that he cares.

However there are small things that we can all do to help. Group B Strep is the commonest cause of infection in the newborn. We saw within the first two cases of the Shrewsbury investigation published in the Daily Mail that they both had Group B Strep infections involved in their cases. It is OK to accept that the National Screening Committee does not recommend a universal screening program. The labs are not ready and there are still questions to answer despite our nearest neighbours in France, Germany and Spain that have such programs in place.

Throughout the UK we now have Healthy Living Pharmacies. I would guess that 90% of English Pharmacies will be successful in achieving the quality payments and being granted healthy living pharmacy status. But what does that mean and what do we want that to mean to our local populations – will it make a difference?

It would help the system if women took charge, knew about Group B Strep, knew their carrier status and if positive received treatment as recommended by NICE and the RCOG. It might mean that two less babies every day would need additional support, one less baby a week would die and one less baby would survive with a disability. It might just take a few babies out of the system – a few babies where you have to rely on the HealthCare Professionals spotting the problem and responding swiftly – a few of the mistakes that cause misery. We have to all work with those fantastic staff in the NHS and help wherever we can.

It will soon be July – its Group B Strep awareness month. The fantastic Group B Strep Support charity will be gearing up for this to raise awareness and encourage women to make a choice. It is important that women know about Group Strep B, understand the small risks and make an active choice, supported by their wider family.

So come on all you healthy living pharmacies – get involved – this is what you have qualified for.



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