UK Hospital Hygiene Questioned
Commenting on the Healthcare Commission’s calls for C.difficile to be managed as a serious medical condition in its own right, and not just a clinical complication, John Kitchingman, Head of the Clinical Negligence department at Manchester law firm Pannone LLP said, “We are often contacted by patients whose recovery has been complicated by C.difficile who report less than acceptable standards of hospital hygiene and by the families of patients who have died and believe that this infection contributed to the death of their loved one. We assist them in pursuing a number of options available from NHS complaint, claim for compensation and investigation at Coroners Inquest. We have an increasing amount of enquiries regarding C.difficile and a number of continuing cases.”
On 11 October 2007, the Healthcare Commission published a report detailing significant failings in infection control at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.
Some of the factors identified were shortage of nurses; staff training in infection control; poor standards of care; poor management of the movement of patients between wards; old buildings; few single rooms and side rooms to isolate patients, and beds too close together.
In fact, C difficile is not a superbug like the other well known hospital infection, MRSA. The bacterium can be found in the gut of healthy adults and infants and it rarely causes a problem. Elderly patients and those patients with a weak immune system are most at risk of developing the infection.
90 People Dead
Although the Healthcare Commission has confirmed that out of the 1,170 patients who were infected at the Trust during the period, 90 of them probably died as a result of the infection, Coroners’ inquests into the exact cause of death may still be awaited in some cases. The Healthcare Commission has stated that many of the 90 people may have died of other causes if they had not acquired C.difficile and some would have died from C.difficile even if they had the best care. The Healthcare Commission has performed a thorough investigation and produced a damning report.
The spread of C. difficile can be prevented with good hygiene. Rigorous cleaning with just warm water and detergent and regular hand washing will kill the infection. Everybody - from managers to clinicians and cleaners - must understand their role.
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