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Trust not charged over bug outbreak

An NHS trust at the centre of an investigation for failures leading to 90 deaths from Clostridium difficile, will not face prosecution.

Poor staffing, dirty wards and too much focus on debts and government targets all contributed to serious outbreaks of the hospital bug at Kent and Sussex Hospital, Pembury Hospital and Maidstone Hospital in 2005 and early 2006, a Healthcare Commission investigation found.

Kent Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had been investigating whether Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust should face charges over the outbreak.

Geoff Martin of campaign group Health Emergency said the decision not to prosecute was “a real kick in the teeth for the friends and relatives of those who died in this tragedy.”

The commission’s report found that a shortage of nurses meant wards and washing facilities were filthy and patients were left to lie in their own excrement. Alcohol wipes, which do not kill C difficile, were used to clean toilets rather than soap and water, which does eliminate the bug.

NHS South East Coast – the regional headquarters of the NHS in Kent, Sussex and Surrey – welcomed the decision not to launch a criminal investigation.

Its chief executive, Candy Morris, said: “The Trust has new leadership, standards of care are improving and the Trust is making good progress in infection control.”

Copyright PA Business 2008

Healthcare Commission