Bolton hospital facing £2.7million fine for failing to control outbreaks of diarrhoea superbug through poor hygiene

By Clare Tierney

Targets to tackle a superbug were missed by Bolton NHS Foundation Trust – who now face being hit with a fine of up to £2.7million.

There were 56 recorded cases of C. difficile at Royal Bolton Hospital this year, 17 more than the yearly threshold of 39, meaning that a penalty is now in negotiation.

Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are discussing the extent of the fine, and its possible reinvestment, with Bolton Foundation Trust.

Susan Long, chief officer for Bolton CCG, said: “On a local level, our first approach is always to consider whether reinvestment of the penalty would make sustainable improvements to avoid this issue arising in the future.”

Fines for missing targets are nationally set at a maximum 2% of the value of the contract between the CCG and the Royal Bolton hospital for providing the service.

News of the fine comes just three months after health watchdog Monitor categorised Royal Bolton Hospital’s finances as ‘Red Risk’ in a damning report.

The fine will be another blow to the hospital’s already strained finances, which recorded a £1.9million deficit last year.

The most recent CCG performance report inaccurately stated that the year to date total for C. difficile cases was 46.

A spokesman for the Royal Bolton Hospital confirmed that an error had been made in the report, revealing that the actual figure up to October 14 is 56 cases.

As part of the CCG’s transparency pledge, accurate public reports of hospital performance are compulsory.

A C. difficile outbreak of 20 cases in May this year, compared with 4 cases in May 2011, meant that missing the target had been unavoidable, said a spokesman for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.

The highly infectious bug, which is spread through poor hand hygiene and is most prevalent in patients who have been on antibiotics, causes chronic diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever.

In June the CCG ordered immediate action to be taken to reduce C. difficile cases, including increased monitoring and spot checks of the affected wards, and education events for staff.

Graham Munslow, Health Protection Specialist at NHS Bolton, said: “As a result, the levels of C. difficile have returned to normal, predicted levels. However, we will continue to monitor as closely as ever, and won’t hesitate to act further if the situation worsens again.”

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