Independent probe into Bolton hospital C.difficile outbreak

Trust's infection control measures under the spotlight after hospital exceeds annual targets for C.diff

The NHS Commissioning Board has appointed a leading infection control specialist to investigate outbreaks of C.difficile infection at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

The independent probe will be led by Martin Kiernan, former president of the Infection Prevention Society and an expert in the field.

He has been appointed by the NHS Commissioning Board Greater Manchester area team to find out why the trust is failing to control the superbug.

I don’t think the presentation gave us enough assurance that enough was being done to achieve that target and I think we need to have an external review

Colin Mercer, clinical director for governance and safety at the Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The external review will see if there is anything else we can do to look after infection control. We are very concerned about C.difficile in the hospital.”

The trust is already facing hefty fines – estimated at around £3.2m - after exceeding its targets on C.difficile infections for the last financial year. The targets vary between individual organisations and are based on previous figures. The Royal Bolton Hospital was given an allowance of 28 cases, but recorded 65 over the 12-month period. In February alone there were six cases when it had planned no more than three a month.

Managers have been working with the CCG to bring the number of cases down, with each reported infection being analysed to determine the cause. Hospital bosses are also reviewing antibiotic prescribing.

But a recent presentation by the trust’s chief nurse, Dee Sissons, has not reassured the CCG that the measures are working and has prompted the probe.

CCG board member, Dr Barry Silvert, said: “I don’t think the presentation gave us enough assurance that enough was being done to achieve that target and I think we need to have an external review.”

We take infection control very seriously and welcome this review, which has been planned for some months, so we can get a better understanding of the situation

A spokeswoman at the trust said of the latest development: “We take infection control very seriously and welcome this review, which has been planned for some months, so we can get a better understanding of the situation.

“We are constantly bringing in additional measures such as introducing hand hygiene champions on each ward and we are aiming to create a decant ward to allow for more intensive cleaning.”

C.difficile can cause inflammation of the bowel, particularly among people who are taking antibiotics to treat other infections, or if a patient’s immunity is lowered by chronic or serious ill-health, surgery or drugs. Symptoms range from a mild tummy upset to severe painful bloody diarrhoea. Other symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain. In serious cases where patients have very low immunity it can prove fatal.

Companies