Hospital faces fines of £2.7m after failing to control C.difficile outbreaks

Royal Bolton Hospital faces CCG penalties after exceeding annual infection target in just six months

The Royal Bolton Hospital is facing fines of up to £2.7m after failing to control outbreaks of the potentially-lethal superbug C.difficile among patients.

In the first six months of this financial year, from April to October 2012, the hospital had already exceeded its annual target for the number of infection cases, with 33 reports. The targets vary between individual organisations and are based on previous figures. For 2012, the Royal Bolton Hospital has an allowance of 28 cases.

A large number of the cases were reported during an outbreak on ward B4 in May.

Something as basic as infection prevention and hygiene to prevent such outbreaks should be the bedrock of everything the hospital does

And Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has revealed it is in talks with managers and will issue a fine of anything up to £2.7m. National protocol means the hospital could have faced even heftier penalties amounting to £4.5m.

The problem was revealed in board papers published by the primary care trust, NHS Greater Manchester, which predicts the number of cases will reach 70 by April next year, almost double the target number, making it the worst-performing centre in Greater Manchester.

Commenting on the revelation, Dee Sissons, the hospital’s director of patient safety and experience and chief nurse, said it was implementing infection prevention measures to bring down prevalence of the bug, which causes severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever.

She added: “We would hope to demonstrate that we have made rapid responses to the problem that we have had.

“We are committed to sustaining this improvement and the CCG continues to work in partnership with us so that we reduce the level of C.difficile across the health community.”

The CCG itself is now deciding whether any financial penalty should be used by the hospital to invest in equipment and procedures that could help to reduce future cases.

Spokeswoman, Su Long, said: “On a local level, our first approach is always to consider whether re-investment of the penalty would make sustainable improvements to avoid this issue arising in the future.”

The board should do everything in its power to recover the situation as soon as possible or, yet again, it is the users and frontline staff who suffer as a result of the financial penalty

Councillor Andy Morgan, who sits on the health, overview and scrutiny committee, added: “Something as basic as infection prevention and hygiene to prevent such outbreaks should be the bedrock of everything the hospital does.

“The board should do everything in its power to recover the situation as soon as possible or, yet again, it is the users and frontline staff who suffer as a result of the financial penalty.”

The fine comes as a fresh blow to the trust, which is already being investigated by regulator Monitor after a damning report into its finances. Its books are currently being studied by accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCooper, in an effort to discover how £3.8m remains unaccounted for.

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