Glasgow & West Scotland

Vale of Leven C. diff probe: Anger over fifth delay to report

Vale of Leven hospital Image copyright bbc
Image caption A total of 18 patients died from C. diff at Vale of Leven Hospital

A woman who lost a relative in Scotland's worst Clostridium difficile (C. diff) outbreak has expressed anger at another delay to the inquiry report.

The probe was launched after 55 patients at Dunbartonshire's Vale of Leven Hospital developed the bug. Eighteen died between 2007 and 2008.

The inquiry report has now been delayed for a fifth time to allow responses from those subject to criticism.

Michelle McGinty said families were "angry" no deadline had been set.

Ms McGinty, who lost her mother-in-law to C. diff at the Vale of Leven, has campaigned on behalf of the C. Diff Families Justice Group.

Families' 'heartache'

"It is really upsetting for families to get the news that this inquiry will be delayed for a fifth time," she said.

"Families are now going through the heartache of the sixth anniversary of their loved ones' deaths, while still receiving no answers to the public inquiry they fought so hard to get.

"It makes us even more angry that this delay doesn't even have another timeline attached. Will we ever get the answers we so desperately need to finally finish grieving?"

The inquiry, under retired judge Lord MacLean, was originally due to report its findings by May 2011.

Four other delays had seen March this year earmarked for publication.

That has now been dropped, with no deadline for publication, to allow people and organisations criticised in the inquiry report to make their responses.

Julie-Anne Jamieson, secretary to the Vale of Leven Hospital Inquiry, said: "By its very nature, the process of preparing warning letters, waiting for responses to the letters and then reviewing these in detail is a very complex and time-consuming one.

"Lord MacLean fully recognises the disappointment that this delay will cause to patients and relatives who are understandably anxious to hear the inquiry's findings and he is keen to publish his report as soon as possible.

"However, the warning letter process is a crucial element of the inquiry."

Ms Jamieson said the inquiry "recently issued the last of its warning letters" and could not fully conclude until all responses had been received and considered.

"A further update will be provided on the reporting date once the warning letter process is complete."

She added: "The chairman wants to ensure that his report is comprehensive and makes clear recommendations as a result of the lessons learned from the Vale of Leven Hospital experience.

'Utterly unacceptable'

Dumbarton Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said the latest delay was "utterly unacceptable" and that Health Secretary Alex Neil needed to "get a grip" of the inquiry and make sure families had a publication date for the inquiry report.

She said: "It's now over six years since the C. diff outbreak started so it's important that the families of those who died get the answers they deserve.

"I appreciate that the inquiry needs time to gather all the evidence required to produce an informed report but this is simply not good enough."

The Scottish government said the delay was disappointing and would be difficult for the patients and families.

A spokesman added: "We understand that the inquiry is now at an advance stage, and Lord MacLean has informed the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing that he requires additional time to complete his report because the warning letter process of the inquiry has not been fully completed.

"The Vale of Leven Hospital Inquiry is an independent inquiry. The procedure and conduct of an inquiry is entirely independent and determined by the inquiry's chairman in accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005.

"As such it is a matter for the chairman, Lord MacLean to decide on the progress and timetabling of the inquiry, and there is no provision for the Scottish government to intervene."

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