Hospital trust faces fines if it exceeds limits on the number of infections

NHS bosses risk being fined tens of thousands of pounds this year if they miss their targets in controlling hospital acquired infections.

The Department of Health has set East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT), which runs the Conquest and Eastbourne DGH, tough limits on the number of MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C diff) cases it can tolerate before the trust is fined.

The limit over the next year until April 1, 2014 is two for MRSA and 25 for C diff, which is an infection that causes mild to severe diarrhoea.

ESHT has struggled to clear its debts in recent years and only broke even at the end of March this year.

Darren Grayson, the trust’s chief executive, in his weekly report to staff across both hospitals, said: “We have been set exceptionally challenging limits by the Department of Health especially in relation to C diff. Our limit for C diff is 25 cases and our limit for MRSA is two. Compared with our actual performance last year this is a very tall order and requires everyone to play their part. It is concerning that we have already seen 10 cases of C diff in the first couple of months this year.

“Exceeding our limit for C diff also has a financial consequence as well.

“We will be fined £44,000 by the Clinical Commissioning Groups for every case over our limit.”

In the last year ESHT saw two cases of MRSA and 51 C diff incidents.

Mr Grayson added: “As an organisation we have made significant reductions in the number of cases of MRSA and C diff over the past few years. This has been to the credit of everyone who has played their part in reducing the risk of infection by maintaining good hand hygiene and adhering to best practice infection control guidelines.

“But fear of infection is one of the things patients worry about most and we need to do everything we can to ensure our patients are safe. Although our standards are high and our record is good we can’t allow ourselves to become complacent and rest on our laurels.

“We need to constantly remain vigilant when it comes to reducing healthcare acquired infections by adhering to strict infection control procedures.

“In these financially challenging times we must do all we can not to exceed our infection control limits.”