Inspectors could be given power to shut Scots hospital wards

Hospital ward Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Inspectors would be able to shut wards to new admissions over concerns about patient safety

Inspectors could be given powers to close hospital wards to new patients from April, if the move is approved by MSPs.

The Scottish government acted after an inquiry into a serious Clostridium difficile (C. diff) outbreak.

Regulations have been put before Holyrood which would let Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) inspectors close wards to protect patients.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the powers would be "a last resort".

A review of care at Vale of Leven Hospital in West Dunbartonshire found that C. diff was a factor in the deaths of 34 out of 143 patients who tested positive for the infection in 2007 and 2008.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The inquiry looked into the C. diff outbreak at Vale of Leven Hospital between 2007 and 2008

Lord MacLean said NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had "badly let down" patients, with the board apologising unreservedly for its "terrible failure".

The new system, announced by the government in 2015 and now set to go before MSPs, would see inspectors have the power to intervene and shut wards down in response to safety concerns ranging from cleanliness to staffing levels.

'Direct action'

Ms Robison said Scotland had a "very robust scrutiny and inspection regime", with HIS carrying out almost 100 inspections each year.

She said: "Protecting patient safety is of critical importance and that is why we want to go further and give HIS the powers to close hospital wards if they consider it necessary.

"Let me be clear that this would only ever be used as a last resort, and in the majority of cases we would expect HIS to work with health boards to put in place improvements on wards first.

"But on the very rare occasions that inspectors have concerns about the safety of patients on a ward, they should have the powers to take firm and direct action."

The OECD has recommended stronger scrutiny of Scotland's health system amid fears HIS could "mark its own homework", calling for better arrangements for dealing with mistakes and poor performance.

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