The Issue

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AFTER latest outbreak, are ministers doing enough on hospital superbugs?


Nicola Sturgeon,

Deputy first minister and health secretary

T HE reports I have received from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (about C difficile at the Vale of Leven Hospital] suggest surveillance systems were inadequate and did not alert the board to the number and pattern of cases. They make clear that a physical examination of the hospital identified serious infection control issues.

The reports set out a range of actions the board is taking to address those issues, (including] stepping up surveillance systems and infection control procedures to bring them into line with current standards; a concerted drive to improve hand-hygiene compliance, led by the board's hand-hygiene co-ordinator and top-level medical and nursing staff; the opening of an additional ward to improve bed spacing and access to handwashing facilities; an urgent review of the use of antibiotics that are known to reduce the body's natural defences against C difficile and staff training to highlight awareness of infection control interventions.

The public needs to know why the surveillance systems and infection control procedures did not work as they should have. They are also entitled to assurances that the actions being taken are adequately addressing the key problem areas and do not fall short in any way.

It is also vital to have a thorough investigation to ensure any good practice recommendations are picked up by other health boards and adopted nationally so that we can reassure patients in other parts of the country that their safety is being protected as fully as possible.

&#149 From a Holyrood statement last week announcing an independent review into C difficile at Vale of Leven Hospital.


Margaret Watt chairwoman and marketing director, Scotland Patients Association

I HAVE been saying for years that the health authorities are not doing enough to protect the well-being of patients in our hospitals.

The tragic situation we heard about last week has been brewing for a long time and it is obvious one case can mirror another elsewhere.

You only have to walk into a hospital ward to see unhygienic practices such as visitors sitting on top of a patient's bed in the clothes they travelled in or using the patient's toilet. In the private sector, by contrast, the toilet, soap and bed are sealed until the patient arrives.

Hospital staff can also bring in or help the spread of infection. They are allowed to travel to work on public transport, bikes or their own cars in their uniforms. Others just nip out to the shops actually wearing their "greens".

In years gone by, this would not have been allowed. But hospitals are so short-staffed and morale is so low that there is not the will to enforce quite basic changes which would help tackle the problem. We also need to be provided with information about the widespread use of antibiotics which can upset natural bacteria in the gut.

Health Protection Scotland figures show that, between October 2006 and September 2007, there were 6,035 case of C difficile among pensioners who had recently come into contact with the health service, but we don't know if they were prescribed antibiotics.

Britain now ranks 12th for best practice in hospital hygiene which is shocking. Among the measures we advocate would be alleviating staff pressure by employing more consultants and nurses, bringing back matrons and hospitals employing their own cleaners, not contractors.