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Sunday 27th May 2018

C diff factors in more deaths

19th November 2008

A leading expert says Clostridium difficile infection is a greater contributory factor to deaths in Scottish hospitals than currently recorded.


Professor of bacteriology Hugh Pennington said that C diff should appear on a death certificate more often than it does at present.

Latest figures from the General Register Office for Scotland show that C diff was a factor in 597 deaths last year, compared with 313 deaths in 2005.

In an outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital between December and June, 55 people were affected with C diff. It was recorded as the primary cause of death in nine patients and a contributory factor in another nine.

Following the deaths, the Scottish government commissioned an independent investigation which found that there was no clear surveillance system in place, infection control procedures had failed and there were failings in leadership and accountability.

However, Prof Pennington said that it was "very reasonable" to suppose that more than 18 people died at the Vale.

He said that often when it was "abundantly clear" that a hospital acquired infection was material in causing death, it does not appear on the death certificate.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "The key failure at the Vale of Leven is that the surveillance systems weren't robust enough to pick up what was happening there and I think that is a matter of enormous regret and something that I never, ever want to see happen again."

She dismissed suggestions that the report into the Vale of Leven outbreak was not comprehensive enough.


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