Cases of whooping cough are first for NHS trust

Two cases of whooping cough were identified last year by Northumbria Healthcare – the first in its history and attributed to ‘waning vaccination rates’.

By Ben O'Connell
Monday, 03 June, 2019, 09:32
The two cases were attributed to 'waning vaccination rates'.

They were reported by Dr David Tate, director of infection prevention and control, as he presented his annual report for 2018-19 to the latest board meeting of the trust, which runs hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside.

The two unrelated incidents, which were also the first Dr Tate had seen in his career, were in November 2018 and March this year, with one affecting a baby.

In response to a question from a board member, he said that Public Health England recognises that work needs to be done on the issues around social media and its impact on falling vaccination rates.

However, there were a number of positives, with Dr Tate concluding: “There’s nothing I’m particularly concerned about, but obviously infection control is a constant and ongoing battle.”

Outbreaks of influenza and norovirus were fewer this year, in part due to the lessons learnt from the previous year, and those outbreaks that did occur were managed in an improved manner.

The ‘stand-out success’ was in relation to C. difficile or C. diff, a bacteria that can infect the bowel and cause diarrhoea, of which there were just 16 cases in 2018-19, against a target of 29. However, there was one case of MRSA, sometimes described as a ‘superbug’ due to its resistance to many antibiotics.

In his foreword, Dr Tate wrote: ‘The winter yet again was busy with influenza and norovirus which the organisation managed in a more improved manner following the lessons learnt in the previous year.

‘The Infection Prevention and Control Team (IPCT) have nothing but praise and gratitude for the hard work and professional manner in which all the staff in the trust displayed during this period.

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‘A special mention to our domestic teams who yet again ensured rooms were cleaned in a timely manner, our estates and facilities teams who ensured the hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) was deployed and our microbiology team who delivered rapid results for both influenza and norovirus 24/7.

‘One of the stand-out successes of last year was our rate of clostridium difficile cases apportioned to the trust, which finished at 16. It was not that many years ago that this figure stood at over 300 cases.

‘The reduction is testament to the multidisciplinary working of the organisation. No one intervention…can be deemed to be the ‘solution’ but put together they have delivered a significant impact on patient safety and experience.

‘We are extremely fortunate to have 50 per cent side-room capacity at NSECH (at Cramlington) which in my mind has enabled us to deliver high standards of infection prevention and control practice limiting the spread of infection within the hospital.

‘We look forward to the redevelopment of the base sites to increase the number of side-rooms available (with en-suite facilities) to match this success in these hospitals.’

At the meeting, Dr Tate also highlighted the start of a successful school engagement project and the thousands of members of staff who have received training in infection prevention and control.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service