Hospital trust rolls out deep clean plan in response to superbug

A deep clean plan has been instigated at the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust amid continued concern over a diarrhoea-causing superbug.

Forty eight cases of Clostridium difficile, also known as C difficile or C diff, were recorded among patients in the year to date up to and including July, 33% above the trust’s target of 36.

A report described the category of infection as an “ongoing risk” and said an enhanced cleaning programme was a “key priority”.

There were 138 cases of C diff in 2021/22 with the trust, which operates the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and Northallerton’s Friarage, also issuing an alert earlier this year about a higher than expected number of cases.

While in some cases a patient may have already developed an infection prior to admission, many are directly associated with hospital healthcare.

The infection commonly affects patients who have been treated with antibiotics since these can cause the balance of bowel bacteria to change and it can spread easily to others in the absence of good hygiene practices.

Those most at risk include people taking long-term antibiotics, patients who have had to stay in a hospital or a care home for a long time, those with underlying health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, cancer or kidney disease, or who have a weakened immune system because of a condition such as diabetes or through the side effect of a treatment such as chemotherapy.

The bug infects the bowel and causes diarrhoea with other symptoms including painful stomach cramps, dehydration and a fever.

If left untreated it can cause severe damage to the bowel and even death.

Speaking at a meeting of the trust’s board of directors, chief operating officer Samuel Peate said: “We are slightly above trajectory for the number of C difficile impressions within the organisation.

“We have recently started on a full deep clean plan taking place at both the Friarage site and the James Cook site [which] has been clinically agreed to combat that.”

A spokeswoman said: “Rates of clostridium difficile have increased nationally over the last two years and like other trusts, we have also seen a rise in cases.

“Treatment includes stopping any antibiotics people have been taking if possible and taking a ten-day course of another antibiotic that can treat the infection.

“Like other bugs, good hand hygiene is very important to prevent spreading the infection to others.

“We also use a rolling programme of deep-cleaning which includes hydrogen peroxide fogging of vacated areas.”

Last week health regulator the National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended patients who have been treated for two or more C diff infections without success be offered poo transplants on the NHS,  which take gut bacteria from a healthy person’s faeces.

So-called faecal microbiota transplants can be administered in a pill that is swallowed, or inserted directly into the stomach or colon through a tube.