Scotland politics

Health agency criticised over new clostridium difficile strain information

A Scottish government minister criticised the way information was released about a new strain of the infection clostridium difficile.

Michael Matheson said Health Protection Scotland (HPS) "could have been more proactive".

It was revealed last week that three hospital patients died after contracting ribotype 332.

HPS did not disclose the name of the hospitals, or NHS board, due to patient confidentiality.

However, NHS Fife later confirmed speculation that it was the board in question. It has as yet not identified the hospitals.

Answering questions from MSPs about the new strain, Public Health Minister Mr Matheson said: "When it comes to these types of issues there is always the potential for partial information to be misinterpreted as though there is a desire to try to withhold information.

"I think on reflection it is very clear that Health Protection Scotland could have been more proactive in the information that they made available from the outset to give public assurance, while at the same time balancing that with patient confidentiality issues.

"I think the proactive action that was taken forward by NHS Fife helped to address any potential concerns that may have arisen as a result of information that Health Protection Scotland made available."

A reference to the strain was published by HPS in its weekly report on 1 May.

Two patients being cared for at the same hospital died, one in December and the second in January. A third patient within the NHS Fife area died last month. All were seriously ill with underlying conditions.

Mr Matheson said no changes to antibiotic treatment were needed.

He added: "There is no evidence to suggest that the identification of this ribotype poses a greater health risk to the public than other known strains."

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