Total cost of C. diff inquiry estimated at £2m

Image caption,
The inquiry is being held at Antrim Civic Centre

It is estimated that the total cost of the public inquiry into the C. difficile outbreak in the Northern Health Trust will be around £2m.

The figure was revealed in a written assembly answer in response to a question by the North Antrim MLA, Declan O'Loan.

An independent panel is reviewing an outbreak in Northern Trust hospitals between June 2007 and August 2008.

It has established that 31 people died from the outbreak.

Chair of the assembly's health committee, Jim Wells said he was "absolutely shocked" by the figure.

"I had no idea it could cost anything like that," he said.

"That's £2m lost to front line care. If they had spent a fraction of that money on improving hospital hygiene, then they could have avoided the anguish to the families and the embarrassment of having to have a public inquiry."

Mr Wells said hygiene standards in the Northern Trust hospitals had improved greatly since the outbreak following a review by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

It made 17 recommendations designed to improve hygiene and infection control measures within the trust.

The hospitals involved included Antrim Area Hospital, Braid Valley Hospital, Mid-Ulster Hospital, Moyle Hospital and Whiteabbey Hospital.

The Health Minister Michael McGimpsey announced in 2008 that a public inquiry would be held.

The hearing at the Civic Centre in Antrim lasted for almost a month.

Around 50 people took the stand, including the former chief executive of the Northern Health Trust, Norma Evans and the chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride.

Families of patients who died also gave evidence.

The panel has now retired to produce its final report and a list of recommendations.

It is expected to present them to the health minister before the end of the year.

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