Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 16:02 UK

Hospital C. diff record defended

Gartnavel [Pic: Alistair McMillan]
Gartnavel houses centres for infectious diseases and cancer care

A health board has insisted death rates from Clostridium difficile (C. diff) at Gartnavel hospital in Glasgow are "well within acceptable limits".

It has emerged 18 people died from the bug inside a year at Gartnavel, with a further 10 deaths the previous year.

Labour said the figures were "deeply concerning" and demanded Scottish Government action.

But Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said deaths from C. diff had fallen by 38% in the past year.

Ms Sturgeon has already ordered an inquiry into the Vale of Leven hospital, which is also in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, after a C. diff outbreak last year killed nine people in six months.

Labour health spokeswoman Cathy Jamieson said the revelation that 28 people had died at Gartnavel over the past two years meant Ms Sturgeon should look again at a 15-point plan drawn up by Labour and infectious disease expert Hugh Pennington.

On a national review of C. diff rates and deaths last year Gartnavel General Hospital was found to be well within acceptable limits
Dr Brian Cowan
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Ms Jamieson said: "The news that 28 people have died of C. diff in Gartnavel is deeply concerning.

"People expect the highest standards of care in hospital and infection-control procedures should be as tight as possible."

She added that Ms Sturgeon "needed to get a grip" on hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), and also called on the health secretary to "get on with sorting out infection-control procedures" in hospitals.

But the medical director of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Dr Brian Cowan, said it was not fair to compare the number of deaths at Gartnavel with those at the much smaller Vale of Leven.

Dr Cowan said: "Gartnavel General is a large hospital which admits more than 19,000 patients a year.

"Many of these patients are elderly, who are at greater risk of developing C. diff than younger people.

"The hospital also hosts the West of Scotland Brownlee Unit which treats seriously unwell patients with infectious diseases from across the entire region.

"On a national review of C. diff rates and deaths last year Gartnavel General Hospital was found to be well within acceptable limits."

'Top priority'

Ms Sturgeon said any death from infections picked up in hospital was a "tragedy."

But she added: "It's wrong to compare these provisional figures for Gartnavel over the course of a year with the Vale of Leven, where a large number of deaths were linked to a single outbreak.

"I'm fully aware of the scale of the challenge and for that reason I've made tackling HAIs my top priority."

She added that rates of C. diff were now at their lowest level since the beginning of 2006.

Health boards are also now required to submit bi-monthly reports on MRSA and C. diff infections, and a range of other measures have been put in place.

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