Hospital chief calls on more to be done in communities to tackle deadly superbug

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

HEALTH chiefs have vowed to do all they can to cut down on the number of superbug infections – despite a reduction in the number of cases in hospitals.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust discussed the outbreak of Clostridium Difficile (C diff), which causes severe diarrhoea and possible death, at a recent board of directors’ meeting.

Sue Smith, director of nursing, patient safety and quality, told the meeting that the number of C diff cases in hospitals was reducing.

However, incidents of the illness were on the rise in the community.

Mrs Smith said: “In relation to C difficile, we are reducing, and are continuing to reduce, the incidents of hospital-acquired C difficile.

“We know there is a big problem in the community with it.

“If there’s an epidemic in the community then one would hope something is being done to reduce it.

“It leads me to a straight-forward question, what on earth are the Clinical Commissioning Group and GPs doing about this?”

She added: “C difficile remains one of our highest priorities and biggest challenges.

“Last year we had the worst performance in the North-East, and if you look at the national picture we were in the top 10 worst performers in the country which we were aware of.

“It’s very important to note that the community-acquired cases continued to rise, while hospital cases have continued to decrease.

“Our staff are doing a very good job to ensure that we continue to reduce it in hospital.”

Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson for NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The CCG continually monitors the rates of C diff in the community.

“C diff is a type of bacterial infection that can affect the digestive system. Its symptoms can range from mild diarrhoea to severe swelling of the bowel that in some cases can be life-threatening.

“The CCG is clearly concerned at the level of C diff identified locally and are working closely with local GPs, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and NHS England to identify where we are able to make improvements to prevent this infection.

“This includes promoting prescribing of antibiotics in line with best practice guidelines as taking certain antibiotics can interfere with the balance of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, which can lead to C diff bacteria multiplying and producing toxins.”

Figures show that although the number of hospital cases is falling, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust has had the highest number of C diff cases in the North-East, from 2012-13, with 29.4 cases of C diff per 100,000 bed days.

This is compared to the second highest amount of patients with the illness at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which recorded around 23 cases per 100,000 bed days.

Between July and September this year there were 11 recorded cases of hospital patients with the bug, compared to 23 incidents in the same period last year.

From April to June this year, 10 people contracted C diff, while in the same period last year there were 11 cases.