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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Warning about NHS superbugs went unheeded...

Labour failed to heed NHS superbugs warning - Sunday Telegraph


"They were told last October, in a confidential memo which The Sunday Telegraph has seen, that hospitals were not taking the problem seriously and that £270 million was needed urgently to combat the bug. But Labour provided just £50 million, topped up by another £50 million this summer as public concern grew. The memo was written by Liz Woodeson, the head of the Department of Health's infection unit, just a month after Britain's biggest superbug outbreak infected 1,100 patients at three Kent hospitals, killing 90 and contributing to the deaths of 240.

Miss Woodeson warned the then health secretary Patricia Hewitt that "virtually all trusts" were reporting outbreaks. "We suspect some trusts simply see it as an unavoidable fact of hospital life," she said.

Miss Woodeson added that £270 million should be invested in efforts to combat bugs, including £200 million on isolation rooms.

Cases have risen five-fold in the past decade, with 55,000 now reported annually, while the number of deaths linked to it tripled over four years to reach almost 4,000 by 2005.

Clostridium difficile is a highly contagious bacterium commonly caught from touching contaminated surfaces."

"A Healthcare Commission investigation into Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust found "significant failings" in infection control at three of its hospitals between April 2004 and September 2006. They included unwashed bedpans, a lack of isolation units and beds too close together.

Maidstone's MP Ann Widdecombe, cared for her mother Rita at home until her death in May aged 95 rather than send her to Maidstone Hospital.

She said: "Old folk go into our hospitals and die of dehydration because drips run out. They starve when trays are taken away with meals untouched. They ring bells for nurses which are ignored."

Police and the Health and Safety Executive are investigating the Kent outbreak."