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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Minister takes the rap for C diff deaths

19th June 2008

Alan Cochrane writes in The Telegraph about the Scottish government's health minister Nicola Sturgeon and the latest outbreak of superbug hospital deaths.


The worst post in government must surely be the one which has to take responsibility for the operation of the health service.

Nicola Sturgeon must face one of the largest outbreaks of clostridium difficile in Britain where 17 people have died, in what may be "the most serious outbreak of its kind".

The Scottish government has responded badly to the outbreak. When "patients at one of Scotland's major hospitals have been dropping like flies for six months, with the cause of their deaths being linked directly to one of the most deadly of the so-called superbugs", what has been their answer?

They have come back with an "eight-minute ministerial statement, delivered weeks after it should have been". In addition they only allocated 20 minutes of questions to the issue, in front of a "half full" chamber.

How are the people of Scotland able to respect a government that treats such crucial issues with disregard? Surely discussing why patients have died in health service hospitals must be the most "serious" of issues?

Ms Sturgeon delivered a "truly shocking" speech regarding the state of the Vale of Leven Hospital, in West Dunbartonshire.

She was honest enough to admit that she was taken aback at the conditions of the hospital - although the key issue is how much she knew and when she found about the problem.

Ms Sturgeon said she was told about the three cases of clostridium difficile - of which one patient had died - at the hospital on 22 May. She said she was first aware that there were many deaths when a newspaper got in touch with her on 6 June.

It was only on 10 June that health service sources informed her that eight people had died from the outbreak and eight more deaths were "indirectly" attributed to clostridium difficile.

However, Labour complained that she did not "ask enough questions about the outbreak".

Ms Sturgeon may have attempted to make amends for a "dreadful situation" but the stigma caused by the department's lack of awareness about the outbreak will surely be "hard to remove".


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