Infection control failures: Health boss makes Glan Clwyd apology

Nursing director Angela Hopkins (right) said steps had already been taken

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Health officials have apologised for their failure to control infections at a north Wales hospital.

It comes as a report is published into an outbreak of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) at Glan Clwyd hospital in Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire, this year.

It was one of a series of problems which resulted in the resignation of three senior Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) figures.

The new head of nursing said the board has "acted quickly" to make changes.

Between January and May this year there were 96 cases of C. diff infection at Glan Clwyd hospital.

At least seven patients who died were found to be carrying the bug.

The outbreak followed a period in which C. diff infection rates within the Betsi Cadwaladr board area were higher than in most other parts of Wales.

Start Quote

We must apologise to the people of North Wales that our infection control practices have not been as good as they should have been”

End Quote Angela Hopkins Executive director of nursing, midwifery and patient services

BCUHB runs NHS services in the six counties of north Wales with a budget of around £1.2bn.

In June three senior figures resigned after a damning report on its "significant management failings".

The chairman, chief executive and vice-chairman stepped down after health and audit watchdogs found a range of problems, including infection control.

'Everyone's responsibility'

An initial report prepared by Public Health Wales had highlighted that the systems to monitor and manage infection control issues within the health board were not operating "consistently and effectively".

As a result the health board asked Professor Brian Duerden, emeritus professor of medical microbiology at Cardiff University, to conduct an independent expert review of infection controls, and to recommend improvements.

His report published on Tuesday said more needed to be done to improve infection prevention and control "especially in terms of leadership and management".

Prof Duerden looked at all aspects of the way infection control issues were handled at the hospital from individual job responsibilities to the management hierarchy.

"It is well recognised that when there are weaknesses in a system, infections is one of the first challenges that will expose those weaknesses," the report said.

"The phrase 'infection prevention and control is everyone's responsibility' means exactly what it says," it added.

'Zero-tolerance'

The health board said it has already acted on recommendations.

"First we must apologise to the people of North Wales that our infection control practices have not been as good as they should have been," said Angela Hopkins, recently appointed executive director of nursing, midwifery and patient services.

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This report must be swiftly digested by senior NHS staff and the Welsh Labour Government to ensure that lessons are learnt so patients are not put at risk again”

End Quote Darren Millar Conservatives shadow health minister

"We have made it clear that we have an attitude of 'zero-tolerance' to preventable infection across the organisation," she added.

"As an immediate step I have brought in a leading expert in infection prevention to work with us in north Wales as we improve our wider infection control services.

"We have also put in place a weekly monitoring system at board level and we now have infection control groups led by senior clinical staff in each acute hospital to make sure there are clear lines of reporting and accountability at a local level.

"We are also in the process of recruiting additional nurses to our infection control teams."

Mrs Hopkins said she hoped that by commissioning and publishing the report, and acting on its findings, BCUHB will be able to "demonstrate and assure patients of the health board's determination to make the necessary and urgent improvements".

Darren Millar AM, the Conservatives' shadow minister for health, said it was "unforgiveable that senior managers took their eyes off the ball and allowed standards to drop".

"This report must be swiftly digested by senior NHS staff and the Welsh Labour Government to ensure that lessons are learnt so patients are not put at risk again," he said.

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