Wales

Betsi Cadwaladr C. diff outbreak manslaughter inquiry call

  • 30 September 2013
  • From the section Wales

Wales' biggest health board is facing calls for a corporate manslaughter investigation over a Clostridium difficile (C. diff) outbreak.

From January to May there were 96 cases of C. diff at Glan Clwyd Hospital, Denbighshire, and 30 patients died while suffering with the infection.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has apologised for the outbreak.

But North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said he wanted police to examine how the health board responded to warnings.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) runs health and hospital services across the six counties of north Wales with a budget of around £1.2bn.

The chairman and vice-chairman stood down after the NHS body was severely criticised by health and audit watchdogs over its handling of the disease outbreak, among other management failings. The chief executive stood down from the board on health grounds.

But the BBC Wales programme Week In Week Out has discovered that no one at BCUHB has been disciplined.

Despite warnings of a possible outbreak, the health board was said to have failed to have acted quickly enough to prevent it.

The number of infection control nurses had been cut, and there were not enough isolation beds at the hospital to help stop the infection spreading.

Mr Gruffydd told the programme he wanted North Wales Police to examine the evidence.

He said: "I think it is time to consider whether there might be a case to answer in terms of corporate manslaughter and I don't say that lightly.

"Part of the criteria there needs to be, clearly, gross breach of the duty of care by senior managers.

"Thirty people have died with C. diff in Glan Clwyd alone. If that doesn't merit a serious look at this then nothing does."

BCUHB said it accepted there were weaknesses and it was working hard to address them.

It also said that every day thousands of patients continued to benefit from high quality treatment and care provided by hard working and committed staff.

Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd said Aneurin Bevan 'would be turning in his grave' over NHS failures

The Welsh government has sent in a team of health experts to help improve things at Betsi Cadwaladr, but Geoff Ryall-Harvey, chief officer of the local Community Health Council, said public confidence in the health board has collapsed. and the CHC no longer wishes to use its name.

"It is a toxic brand. The CHC felt it could no longer carry that name. It is a name people don't want to hear," he said.

Meanwhile, a government advisor told the programme that he likened health care provision in parts of Wales to the recent Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust scandal.

Prof Sir Brian Jarman, an expert on mortality statistics, said: "From what I've seen I've been concerned about complaints, about infections and how they are dealt with at that particular hospital and I've seen measures of mortality which are not completely open."

His concerns are echoed by Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd, who is conducting a review into complaints by hospital patients in England.

She said: "Privately some people have said I am glad you are doing it, but clearly it is an embarrassment because clearly you are criticising something that is devolved to Wales, for which the Welsh government has responsibility."

She added: "You cannot bury your head in the sand and pretend everything is well because it isn't. I think Aneurin Bevan would be turning in his grave."

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford has promised to review the way Welsh data is presented.

He said: "We are moving to a different system in Wales, a new way of measuring hospital mortality figures.

"I hope when it is completed we will have a system which is both more robust in terms of the information it provides and easier for patients to understand."

The Welsh government has sent in a team of health experts to help improve things at BCUHB.

Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Peter Tyndall warned that the redress system for patients, called Putting Things Right, was not living up to its name.

He said: "The health service in Wales is not learning from complaints as quickly as it should otherwise we would not have seen complaints rise by 290% in the lifetime of this office.

"I don't believe it is being sufficiently resourced at the centre to work."

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