CHIEF Executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), Tom Divers, today apologised to patients and families affected by the C-diff outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
Following today’s publication of the Independent Review Panel’s findings Mr Divers stated: “There are clearly lessons that have been learned and a clear need for me now, on behalf of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to apologise to the families affected by C-diff at the Vale of Leven Hospital.”
He added: “I recognise the concerns of relatives of patients that they were not properly informed every step of the way of the infection and how to help protect themselves and others from the risk of infection. I have instructed infection control teams and senior managers to take action on these valid complaints.”
Mr Divers recognised as key areas for immediate attention the report’s criticisms of the poor standards of certain facilities in particular the insufficient access to hand washing facilities. “I have already instructed immediate remedial improvements – and many of those are already underway – these include improved hand washing facilities and better bed spacing.
“A further key issue raised by the report is the lack of an effective local hospital surveillance system for infections at the start of the outbreak. As part of a planned programme we had already introduced a new system for more effective surveillance of infections across all our hospitals. This will enable doctors, nurses and infection control teams to identify higher than normal levels of infections in any of the wards of Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospitals to take swift control measures to protect patients and the spread of any infection.
“We have already made some initial changes to the management arrangements in Clyde resulting in the Clyde structure now being fully integrated with the rest of Greater Glasgow. As a result of today’s recommendations we will take forward further actions to reinforce leadership, accountability and empowerment both at the ward and hospital level and ensure clear lines of communication and responsibility to the Board’s Medical and Nurse Directors. Locally our Charge Nurses will be given extra support, authority and the ability to access the resources to be able to deliver on HAI responsibilities.
“We will also carry out a full review of our infection control structures to address the recommendations of the IRP report. All of this work will form part of our detailed action plan to ensure all the key recommendations made by the panel are fully addressed and monitored on a regular basis. We will ensure that the families concerned, as well as other patient representatives, are invited to be represented in this process.
“The uncertainty over the future of this local hospital has undoubtedly been a factor in the lack of major modernisation investments. I can today give a commitment that this Board will bring forward proposals in August and September that will set out a clear vision for the future of the Vale of Leven site that can then be the subject of public debate over the next few months.”
Dr Syed Ahmed, NHSGGC’s Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Chair of the Vale of Leven C-diff Outbreak Control Team, said: “The Vale of Leven certainly had more cases of C-diff than one would expect during the first six months of 2008 … sadly C-diff is a germ that is in the community and there will always be sick and vulnerable patients – especially among the elderly – who will develop C-diff associated diseases.
“Another factor in this particular outbreak was the prevalence of the more virulent 027 type strain of C-diff amongst the patients affected.
“From an infection control point of view it is clear more could have been done to identify the risks earlier and potentially reduce the spread of infections.
“We believe that better infection surveillance and control measures might have resulted in fewer cases of C-Diff. However we are still working with Health Protection Scotland to investigate the reasons why there were a higher than expected number of deaths amongst those who became affected.
“Cleaning and hand hygiene are a crucial part of our fight against the spread of C-diff but equally important is the prudent use of certain antibiotics for certain types of patients. The public health team are working closely with acute hospital infection control teams and microbiological experts to radically review and implement a new system-wide antibiotics prescribing policy. Staff education programmes are already underway.
“Whilst we already have printed leaflets and other information available for families and patients on the wards we recognise we need to do more to ensure more effective understanding of infection protection measures.”
Tom Divers, concluded: “Recent months have been difficult for the families of patients. Local staff at the hospital have also been put under strain. The staff at the hospital are dedicated and caring professionals with only their patients’ best interests at heart and the Board and I will support them as we go forward.”
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