Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt vows to take family’s fight to health secretary

Robyn Bennett
Robyn Bennett

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MP Penny Mordaunt is backing grieving parents who are campaigning for routine testing to be made available for a life-threatening bacteria.

Ms Mordaunt, who represents Portsmouth North, said she supports Robyn and Darrell Bennett’s fight to raise awareness of group B streptococcus (GBS). The couple lost their daughter Sydney aged only 22 days in April this year.

She developed meningitis after contracting GBS from her mother during birth.

As reported yesterday, Mrs Bennett is angry the NHS won’t bring in a test that costs around £11 to see if GBS is present in pregnant women.

If detected, antibiotics can be given during labour to stop the bacteria being passed on.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘We need to make sure other mums-to-be do not go through what Mrs Bennett is.

‘I have written to Gill Walton, the director of midwifery at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, to see if anything can be done about local policy.

‘Mrs Bennett felt there was a low level of information and I have raised that in my letter.

‘And I have written to the Department of Health secretary of state Jeremy Hunt to request a meeting with him, the National Screening Committee and Mrs Bennett to take this up further.

‘Midwives should be aware of the virus and talk to women about it.’

The Bennetts are not the first family to campaign for routine GBS screening.

Natalie Frost, 31, and Michael, 34, of Portsmouth, were devastated when their baby girl, whom they named Ella, was stillborn in 2011.

Mrs Bennett, of Lyndhurst Road, North End, said: ‘I’m very happy Penny Mordaunt is backing us, and I’m really hopeful we get somewhere with this.

‘The Frosts have been raising awareness for three years and nothing has changed.

‘But we will all carry on campaigning until changes are made.

‘We don’t understand why other countries such as America and Australia routinely test for it, yet we cannot.

‘We will carry on fighting this in memory of Sydney.’

The National Screening Committee is in charge of what conditions should be routinely checked for.

It said it does not plan to bring in the test as GBS is found in a quarter of all women and can often cause no ill effects, meaning hundreds of women may be given unnecessary antibiotics in labour.

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