June 20, 2008

Hospital Faces Rev Iew After C Diff Deaths Sturgeon Orders Independent Inquiry


AN independent review is to be held into a fatal outbreak of Clostridium difficile at a hospital, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday.

A total of 54 people have been treated for the bug at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, in the six months between December and June.

And 23 of those patients have died, with the infection directly responsible for eight of those deaths.

Ms Sturgeon said yesterday: "The safety of our patients is paramount. A thorough review will take place over the coming weeks to identify the circumstances that led to the situation at the Vale of Leven and I am determined to ensure that the lessons to be learned from this exercise will help us to drive C difficile infection rates down and, indeed, reduce the risks to patients."

The review, to be led by Professor Cairns Smith, the professor of public health at Aberdeen University, will examine the circumstances surrounding all 54 C Diff cases.

It will also consider the surveillance systems and infection control procedures in place at the Vale of Leven .

Announcing the move, Ms Sturgeon said the reports she had received from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde raised "serious cause for concern".

She told MSPs these suggested the surveillance system in place at the hospital was "inadequate" and did not alert health board bosses to the number and pattern of cases and she said an examination of the hospital by the infection control team had identified "serious issues about infection control".

These include a lack of wash-hand basins, commodes that were not fit for use and needed replacing, and a lack of protective equipment such as gloves and aprons.

In addition, the spacing of beds throughout the hospital fell short of health and safety recommendations.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The infection control team was also informed that these issues had been raised by staff over a number of years."

Ms Sturgeon said the health board was already taking action to address these issues. She told MSPs systems had been stepped up and there was a "concerted drive towards improving hand hygiene" at the hospital.

The Health Secretary also said there was a "urgent review" of the use of antibiotics, which have been known to reduce the body's natural defences against C Diff.

In addition, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board has made a commitment to refurbish and upgrade facilities at the hospital, and is opening up an extra ward to improve bed spacing.

The health board has invited Health Protection Scotland - the body set up to strengthen and co-ordinate health protection in Scotland - to review its infection control procedures to ensure they meet national standards.

Ms Sturgeon said: "While I am pleased that these steps have now been taken, and indeed to have the board's commitment to refurbishing and upgrading facilities at the hospital, it is nevertheless my view that the case for an independent review is overwhelming."

Norman Provan, of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, welcomed the announcement and added: "It is important that everyone contributes to these reviews to enable Greater Glasgow and Clyde and other health boards to learn lessons from this outbreak and prevent future incidents."

Labour pressed the cabinet secretary over claims she had not revealed the full extent of the problem at an earlier date. MSP Margaret Curran asked: "Did the cabinet secretary or her department receive representations about the need to improve guidance and procedures on C difficile between the period of January and June as improvements did take place in England?"

Ms Sturgeon insisted she had been open with parliament at every new event.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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