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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Health plan to tackle bug spread
C. difficile (Biomedical Imaging Unit, Southampton General Hospital/ Science Photo Library)
C. difficile causes diarrhoea but can also lead to more serious infections
A hospital where "serious failings" in infection control were responsible for the spread of a deadly bug has agreed an action plan to tackle the problem.

A Healthcare Commission report said senior managers at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire, put NHS targets above outbreak control.

Two outbreaks of Clostridium difficile at the Aylesbury hospital resulted in at least 33 deaths.

The hospital is to ensure all clinical staff are trained in infection control.

Cases of C. difficile infection in patients aged 65 years and above increased by 17.2% in England - from 44,107 in 2004 to 51,690 in 2005, according to figures released by the Health Protection Agency.

The bacteria are naturally present in the intestine but kept under control by other bacteria
Antibiotics can kill some of these, allowing C.difficile to take hold
Overuse of antibiotics is linked to the infection's rise
C.difficile is not resistant to treatment, but some cases are difficult to treat
The strain seen at Stoke Mandeville hospital is related to one which has emerged in the US and Canada

The bacterium usually cause diarrhoea but can lead to fevers or more serious infections.

Two outbreaks took place between October 2003 and June 2005, and overall 334 patients were infected.

The Healthcare Commission said the hospital failed to follow advice on stopping the spread of infection, even at the height of the outbreak.

In response to the report, Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville Hospital, said in its action plan it would:

  • Improve the cleanliness of the hospital and increase the number of signs calling for hands to be cleaned
  • Ensure that issues raised by clinical incidents are regularly brought to the attention of the board
  • Ensure acutely ill patients are not placed on wards without adequate medical and nursing support
  • Pay more attention to preventing patients becoming dehydrated and ensure records are kept on the fluids they have received


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