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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Condemnation over superbug

25th July 2006

25072006_emptybed1.jpgA highly critical report from the Healthcare Commission concluded that more than 60 people died at a single hospital, Stoke Mandeville, from complications linked to the superbug Clostridium difficile as a result of serious failings of senior management.

More than 300 patients contracted the C. difficile stomach bug at the hospital in the outbreaks between October 2003 and June 2005. The health inspectorate said that two outbreaks killed more than 33 people, while a culture of poor hygiene and hospital managers’ failure to act contributed to several dozen additional deaths since 2003.

The report detailed a catalogue of serious hygiene offences including faeces on bed rails and patients’ clothes kept on the floor. The commission blamed the spread of the bug on the failure to isolate infected patients, with hospital managers reducing the number of single rooms.

Chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, Anna Walker, said that government targets, the control of finances and the reconfiguration of services had been put above basic patient care. She added that the leadership of the trust had failed to learn lessons from the first outbreak, which killed 16 people.

Nurses at the hospital complained to the trust's chief executive and to the Royal College of Nursing that they were worried about the standard of care; a shortage of nurses meant that staff were too rushed to answer call bells or change soiled sheets and failed to take basic precautions eg hand washing or wearing aprons and gloves.

Limited action was taken after the first outbreak but senior managers failed to bring the second outbreak under control in 2005 because they prioritised other objectives, for example Government's targets on accident and emergency waiting times.

An inspection at the hospital between December 2005 and January this year showed there were still problems with hygiene at the hospital.

Three senior managers at the trust have left or have announced their plans to leave this month and the hospital is to create a new post with sole responsibility for infections control. Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust acting Chief Executive, Alan Bedford, said the hospital had since tightened its procedures.

A second report, by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), showed that the number of cases of C. difficile rose in two-thirds of health trusts, despite government efforts to improve hospital hygiene. Annual figures revealed that rates of C. difficile in patients over the age of 65 have risen across England by 17.2 per cent in the last year. The HPA said the increase was likely to be down to both an increased number of cases and improved reporting.

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Article Information

Title: Condemnation over superbug
Author: Sue Knights
Article Id: 562
Date Added: 25th Jul 2006


The Times

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