Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Police step up hospital inquiry

Vale of Leven Hospital
The Vale of Leven Hospital was the focus of the C.diff outbreak

Police investigating patient deaths at a Dunbartonshire hospital have set up a major incident room, it has emerged.

An outbreak of Clostridium difficile at Vale of Leven Hospital caused the deaths of nine patients and was a contributory factor in nine more.

Strathclyde Police has dedicated 16 CID and uniformed officers to look into the incident.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said she was "sympathetic" to renewed calls for a public inquiry.

A total of 55 people were affected by C.diff at the Vale of Leven Hospital between December last year and June this year.

Inquiry demands

Details of the investigation came in a letter from Ms Sturgeon to opposition parties.

Strathclyde Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have launched parallel investigations and aim to report to the procurator fiscal by March 2009.

"Both these organisations have committed considerable resources to the completion of this work," stated Ms Sturgeon.

"Strathclyde Police has established a major incident room at Dumbarton Police Station and a dedicated team of 16 officers from uniform and CID is progressing the investigation.

"The HSE team consists of a principal inspector, two further inspectors and three specialists."

Following continued opposition demands for a full public inquiry into the deaths, Ms Sturgeon stated that she was "sympathetic to the renewed calls".

But she added: "While these investigations are ongoing, there would be a risk to any possible criminal proceedings if a public inquiry was ordered now".

Prosecutors will decide what further action to take after they receive the reports from the investigation teams.

The health secretary has promised to make a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the outcome.

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