Battle to beat the superbug

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HOSPITAL chiefs are stepping up efforts to wipe out a potentially deadly hospital superbug after a worrying number of cases.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has had 11 cases of the bug Clostridium difficile diarrhoea (C Diff) in the first quarter of the year - including six in June.

Trust chief executive Alan Foster has written to all 5,449 trust staff to stress the importance of following procedures like hand-washing and has warned they could face disciplinary action if they do not comply.

It is part of a six-point action plan Mr Foster has come up with to tackle the problem.

He said: “We have made significant improvements in recent years but numbers have increased during June and July.

“We need to do more to get on top of it further.”

He added: “Disciplinary action will be taken if staff do not follow the guidelines.

“It is so no-one is left in any doubt as to the expectations required to reduce the numbers further.”

Symptoms of the bug include diarrhoea, fever and abdominal cramps but antibiotics do not always work.

Hand washing with soap and water by visitors on wards will also be enforced and numbers could be reduced during visiting hours to reduce risk of spreading of the bug.

Leading academics will also visit the Trust to see if they can do anything else and screening will be extended among the over 65s who are most at risk of contracting C Diff.

It will also work with GPs and care homes to raise awareness of the issue.

The trust has a target for 2012-13 of no more than 44 cases of C Diff.

Cases have fallen from 158 in 2008-09 to 53 in 2010-11. But the trust missed its target for last year of 59 when it had 69 cases.

But the trust has not had any cases of MRSA for the last 16 months.

Sue Smith, director of nursing, patient safety and quality said: “The number of C Diff cases for this year is far too tight and every single one is a patient.

“There are a lot of things that we are doing at the moment and we will continue doing.”