MSP Requests Review of Compensation for C-diff Infection Families

The Scottish Parliament has heard calls for a review of the amount put aside to pay the families of victims – who died from medical negligence – compensation for a C-diff infection.

Jackie Baillie – the Dunbartonshire Member of the Scottish Parliament – raised the question of compensation for a C-diff infection the day after the release of Lord MacLean´s report into the tragic deaths of thirty four patients from Clostridium difficile related infections at Dunbartonshire´s Vale of Leven Hospital between 2007 and 2008.

Clostridium difficile (C-diff) is bacteria which live harmlessly in the gut of one-in-ten adults until the gut flora is disturbed – for example by a course of antibiotics. Thereafter it can multiply quickly and produce poisonous spores which cause diarrhoea in healthy people, and far more serious conditions in patients with compromised immune systems.

Lord MacLean´s report cited substandard nursing care and deficiencies in medical staffing as the primary factors which facilitated the spread of airborne spores and resulted in the infection of 143 patients. However, he added that the death of thirty four patients at the hospital should ultimately be attributed to governance and management failures by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.

The outbreak of C-diff – Lord MacLean commented – was also attributable to the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics such as amoxicillin and cefalexin – these drugs killing the healthy gut bacteria which would have prevented the development of the C-diff bacteria. His report concluded “such personal suffering should never be allowed to happen again”.

The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board has already acknowledged that its failings were responsible for the death of thirty four patients from illnesses related to Clostridium difficile,  A fund of £1 million has been put aside to pay compensation for the C-diff infection fatalities to the families of the victims. However, at the Scottish Parliament, that amount was brought into question.

Clearly emotional, Jackie Baillie – who represents many of the families struck by the tragedy – said that the amount of compensation for the C-diff infection families was inappropriate in relation to the £10 million that had been spent conducting the investigation into the outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital and producing Lord MacLean´s report.

Mrs Baillie called on the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport – Shona Robison – to review the amount of compensation for C-diff infection families, claiming that “justice has not yet been done”.  Mrs Robison replied by saying that detailed discussions were ongoing and that she agreed with her colleague that those hurt by acts of clinical negligence “should be adequately compensated”.