CASES of the potentially deadly hospital infection Clostridium difficile in Scotland have increased significantly, figures show.
Between April and June, 322 cases of the bug were diagnosed in patients over 65, compared to 270 the previous quarter,
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) said the increasing rate was “statistically significant” and in the case of NHS Lothian, specialist support was being given to bring infections down.
But the HPS report also found that cases of MRSA had fallen to the lowest ever recorded, with just 27 cases between April and June.
On the issue of C difficile, cases were shown to rising in both older and younger patients.
The figures revealed there were 100 new C difficile cases in patients aged 15 to 64 years, compared to 92 the previous quarter.
HPS said rates for over-65s in NHS Lothian were higher than expected and extra supoprt was being given to tackle the issue.
“During this period, NHS Lothian reported an increased incidence of C difficile infection (CDI) to HPS,” the agency said.
“HPS are providing on-going support to NHS Lothian in order reduce CDI in the board.”
It said no other boards had rates which meant they were a cause for concern in the last quarter.
The increasing rate of C difficile in Scotland in the most recent release follow previous reports showing infections falling to record lows following greater efforts to combat bugs and improve hospital cleanliness.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “Tackling healthcare associated infections is one of this government’s key priorities and Scotland is widely recognised across the globe as having some of the safest hospitals in the world.
“This co-ordinated effort across Scotland’s NHS has had a significant impact on infection rates, with cases of MRSA having reduced by 89.2 per cent and cases of C difficule by 81.9 per cent since national monitoring began.
“This quarter we saw cases of MRSA at their lowest levels on record and similarly last quarter C difficile cases were also at their lowest level.
“So while we’ve seen increases in the number of cases of C difficile and MSSA between April and June this year, this should be seen in the context of the dramatic fall in infection rates that have been achieved over the last few years.
“But even these relatively small fluctuations should serve as a clear indication that we must not let up in our drive to tackle this issue.
“That is why, working with our key partners, we will continue to monitor infection rates and hospital cleanliness and act immediately where necessary to minimise healthcare associated infections.”
The figures comes just over five years since a public inquiry into a deadly outbreak of C difficile at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Dunbartonshire first started, but which has yet to report its findings following a series of delays.
Fiona Cameron, Head of Service Infection Prevention & Control, NHS Lothian, said: “NHS Lothian has experienced an increase in the number of cases of Clostridium difficile and we have drafted a robust action plan to identify and eradicate the cause.
“As part of that action plan we recently recruited additional infection and prevention control nurses, increased education and ward rounds and began reviewing policies and guidance in relation to the prescription of antibiotic medicine, which is known to be related to Clostridium difficile.
“We have also asked Health Protection Scotland (HPS) to support our work and review our actions to provide any additional input and review actions so far.”