Frustrated parents have criticised health bosses after plans to introduce new testing for a deadly infection in newborns were scrapped.

Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep or GBS) is a bacterial infection that is harmless to the 25 per cent of pregnant women who carry it, but can be transmitted from mother to baby in the birth canal and is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in babies, causing lethal illnesses such as meningitis, blood poisoning or pneumonia.

If detected, pregnant mothers can be given antibiotics during labour to dramatically reduce the risk of infection to their babies.

However, unlike many other countries, a specific test for GBS is still not available in the UK, with the ‘general purpose’ test currently used within the NHS failing to identify the infection in 40 per cent of cases.

The Department of Health had planned on making a GBS-specific swab accessible from the start of the year but, to the anger of parents and campaigners, has now performed a dramatic last minute U-turn.

Last February, Adrian and Gillian Neill’s daughter Maisy, now ten and a half months, was rushed into hospital with the infection and meconium aspiration – ingestion of first faeces – which led to a collapsed lung.

Although Maisy has made a full recovery, Mr Neill, of Deerleap Way, Braintree, is frustrated that better testing continues to be overlooked.