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Hospital mismanagement of Clostridium difficile was responsible for 90 deaths attributed to the resistant pathogen in the UK, according to a report.
The study, by the Healthcare Commission – the health watchdog for England – said “significant failings” at all levels contributed to more than 1,000 patients being infected with the pathogen across three hospitals run by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, in the south of England.
The study found 345 patients infected with C difficile died; of these, 21 definitely died from the infection and in 69 cases it was judged probably the main cause of death.
The infection was said to be a definite contributing factor in 124 deaths, probably a factor in 55 and possibly a factor in 62.
The affected hospitals were Kent and Sussex, Pembury, and Maidstone hospitals.
Inadequate staffing levels, dirty wards and too much focus on debts and Government targets all contributed to two serious outbreaks of C difficile in autumn 2005 and early 2006, the study revealed.
The watchdog has sent its report to the Health and Safety Executive and to Kent Police; these bodies will decide whether there are grounds for criminal charges.
The NHS trust’s chief executive, Rose Gibb, left her job on Friday by mutual agreement with the trust’s board.
Health Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: “I urge all trusts to heed the lessons of this report so that they can look patients in the eye and say that everything possible is being done to protect people from infection. That is the least that patients can expect.”
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