Strep A: Figures show at least 19 children have died in the UK from illness

Pharmacists have told ITV News they feel left 'with no support from anybody' as they struggle to supply patients with antibiotics to combat Strep A infections, as Martin Stew reports

At least 19 children have now died across the UK from invasive Strep A disease, new figures show.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed 16 children under the age of 18 have died in England since September.

Three other deaths of children have been recorded in Belfast and Wales, taking the UK total to 19.

It is understood that health officials do not believe the number of scarlet fever infections has yet peaked, suggesting more deaths are likely.

In the wake of rising child deaths from Strep A, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it is investigating the price of antibiotics used to treat the infection.

The cost of commonly used antibiotics - such as penicillin and amoxicillin - has soared in recent weeks, with drug companies accused of hiking prices.

Pharmacists have told ITV News they feel left "with no support from anybody" amid a surge in demand for antibiotics to treat patients.

However, despite concerns, the government has said checks within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have not revealed an issue with supply of the medicines.

Pharmacists told ITV News they feel they're being 'left on the frontline with no support'

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, CEO Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said: "It's incredibly stressful as healthcare professionals on the frontline to be telling parents that we don't have any supply of the antibiotics."

Meanwhile, Sanjeev Panesar, a pharmacist at Pan Healthcare, added the "increase in the cost of antibiotics is the tip of the iceberg".

Hayleigh and Nick Cheffings explained to ITV News how one of their three children were diagnosed with Strep A on Monday.

But after receiving a prescription for antibiotics they were unable to find a local pharmacy that had any in stock.

Hayleigh Cheffings described the process of accessing antibiotics as 'really, really frustrating'

After being prescribed a different type of antibiotic they faced the same problem again, something Ms Cheffings described as "really, really frustrating".

She said: "We rang everywhere in a 30-mile radius, nowhere had it in stock."

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases.

Illnesses caused by Strep A include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause a life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal (iGAS) disease.

According to the UKHSA, there is no current evidence that a new strain is circulating and the rise in cases is most likely due to high amounts of circulating bacteria and increased social mixing.

Anyone concerned their child has Strep A is urged to call 111 immediately.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

What are the main symptoms of Strep A?

Strep A bacteria can cause a lot of different illness, but it tends to begin with a few typical symptoms, which include:

  • A rash

  • Sore throat

  • Flushed cheeks

  • A swollen tongue

  • Severe muscle aches

  • High fever

  • Localised muscle tenderness

  • Redness at the site of a wound