Bug hospital avoids chargesNo prosecution over Clostridium difficile deaths

16 November 2007

A health trust at the centre of a superbug outbreak which killed 33 patients and infected hundreds of others will not face criminal proceedings, a safety watchdog has confirmed.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it did not find sufficient admissible evidence to bring criminal proceedings against Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Outbreaks of the stomach bug Clostridium difficile (C difficile) at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire between October 2003 and June 2005 saw 334 patients infected at the hospital, and 33 died.

Patient deaths

Sandra Caldwell, HSE Director of Field Operations, said: ‘We did find some breaches relating to the requirements to keep documents.

‘However, as these were not directly linked to any of the deaths and were of a relatively minor nature, HSE decided that it would not be in the public interest to bring legal proceedings against the trust and its managers in relation to these matters.’

The HSE is working with police in Kent to investigate whether action can be taken against a separate trust, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, where appalling hygiene standards have been linked to 90 deaths from C difficile.

Meanwhile, a Healthcare Commission report has found that staff at Stoke Mandeville Hospital have made substantial progress to prevent and manage healthcare-associated infections.

Infection control

It says its inspectors found that infection control is now a top priority and that the trust meets all 11 requirements of a hospital hygiene code.  

But it says there is still a need to make further progress in a number of areas including basic hand cleaning and staffing levels.

Trust Chief Executive Anne Eden said: ‘The report is extremely encouraging and I believe gives a fair assessment of the hard work that has taken place throughout the trust.

‘But we can never be complacent, and will continue to strive to realise our aim to eliminate avoidable infections in our hospitals.’

Which? recently launched our Impatient for Change campaign with the aim of improving the non-clinical aspects of patient care in NHS hospitals, from hygiene to the standard of food and the organisation of care.