Cumbria Crack
Health

Making the C. diff-erence

Cumberland Infirmary IPC Team

Collaborative work across north Cumbria’s hospitals has led to North Cumbria University Hospital NHS Trust’s lowest recorded rates of Clostridium difficile infections.

There were 22 cases of the infection recorded at the Trust between April 2018 and March 2019, the lowest number since records began in 2007, and below a target rate of 24.

Clostridium difficile, also known as C. difficile or C. diff, is bacteria that can infect the bowel and cause diarrhoea.

The infection most commonly affects people who have recently been treated with antibiotics and it can spread easily to others.

The Trust’s infection prevention and control team has been working closely with all staff to ensure that hand hygiene and cleaning is performed to the highest standards to prevent infections spreading when they occur.

West Cumberland Hospital IPC Team

C. difficile bacteria are found in the digestive system of about 1 in every 30 healthy adults. The bacteria often live harmlessly because other bacteria normally found in the bowel keep it under control. But some antibiotics can interfere with the balance of bacteria in the bowel, which can cause the C. difficile bacteria to multiply and produce toxins that make the person ill.

When this happens, C. difficile can spread easily to other people because the bacteria are passed out of the body in the person’s diarrhoea. Once out of the body, the bacteria turn into resistant cells called spores. These can survive for long periods on hands, surfaces (such as toilets), objects and clothing unless they’re thoroughly cleaned.

Nicola O’Reilly, matron for Infection Prevention and Control, said: “This has been a fantastic team effort from absolutely everyone who works in our hospitals; nurses, doctors, cleaners, porters, healthcare assistants and many more. It really demonstrates our Trust value of ‘collaboration’ and is a testament to all of the hard work they’ve put in.

“C. diff is very unpleasant and can be serious for our most vulnerable patients so it really does make a difference to the health and happiness of people in our care that we are managing the problem well.

Clive Graham, consultant microbiologist and Trust lead on infection prevention, added: “I am very proud of the infection prevention team for all of their efforts and we’re aiming for an even lower figure next year.”

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