C.diff death scandal could have been avoided
By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Last Updated: 3:06am BST 12/10/2007
This is by far the worst single outbreak of a hospital infection and the fact at least 90 people probably died as a result is a scandal.
Clostridium difficile is a common hospital infection and poses a far greater threat to health services than the more notorious MRSA.
It is extremely infectious and the spores can live on surfaces, door handles, lavatory seats, bed rails and the like for days or weeks.
Hospital hygiene practices play an enormous role in preventing an outbreak emerging from a single infected person.
However, a clean hospital will still have problems with infections and gimmicks such as doctors wearing short sleeves and no ties can only go so far.
Good nursing care is essential so it is vital that hospitals have enough staff.There needs to be the time and space for cleaners to decontaminate beds between patients.
This is where Government targets are said to have hampered infection control measures because the pressure has been on to admit people from A&E before their four hour waiting time is up and to get patients in for surgery and off the waiting lists.
Doctors have also been too willing to prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics and at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust patients at risk of C.diff were given unsuitable medication that made it easier for the bug to take hold.
Using antibiotics sparingly means it takes longer for the organism to become resistant to the drug which makes it more difficult to treat.
Some degree of resistance is inevitable and hospitals will never be completely clear of infections.
What makes this case so horrifying is the sheer scale of it and the lack of action by mangers despite repeated warnings from staff and patients.
The fact some people came into the hospital with entirely curable conditions, only to contract C.diff and die is utterly tragic and should never be repeated.