C difficile prevention is on the cards

Derbyshire patients who have suffered a Clostridium difficile infection are to be given a card to help reduce the risk of a relapse of the infection.

A course of antibiotics can trigger a relapse. Therefore, patients are being asked to show the card to doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals to alert them to the infection to avoid prescribing medications that could cause a relapse to occur.

Hospital and community organisations in Derbyshire are working together to support the initiative. Derby Hospitals and Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts, Derbyshire Community Health Services (DCHS) NHS Trust, Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and East Midlands Ambulance Service and Public Health England are working with NHS Erewash, Hardwick, North Derbyshire and Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) which plan and buy the county’s healthcare.

The initiative started last month.The infection Prevention andControl teams at Derby Hospitals and Chesterfield Royal Hospital will issue the cards to patients who have developed C. difficile in hospital while community infection control nurses employed by DCHS will do the same for patients who develop the infection in the community.

In recent years, the number of C. difficile infections has fallen rapidly. There were 14,687 reported cases in England from April 2012 to March 2013, compared with 52,988 in 2007.

There were just 303 cases in Derbyshire in 2013/14, made up of 120 in North Derbyshire, 35 in Hardwick, 126 in Southern Derbyshire and 22 in Erewash. However, a new strain causing more severe infection has emerged nationally in recent years.

Dr Sheila Newport, Chair of NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG, said: 

“The majority of C. difficile cases occur in people who have had antibiotics. This may be in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or care home, but can also occur at home without ever going to hospital.”

C. difficile is a bacterial infection that affects the digestive system. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include diarrhoea, a high temperature and painful stomach cramps. In rare cases, C. difficile can cause life-threatening complications such as a severe swelling of the bowel.

Mild cases of C. difficile can usually be controlled by stopping use of the antibiotic causing the infection. More serious cases can be treated with specific antibiotics.

The condition usually responds well to treatment, with symptoms improving in two to three days and clearing up completely within seven to 10 days. Infections can usually be prevented by washing hands regularly and cleaning surfaces using products containing bleach.

Dr Avi Bhatia, Chair of NHS Erewash CCG, said:

“If you’re visiting someone in hospital with C. difficile, you can reduce the risk of spreading infection by washing your hands before and after entering the bed space. Alcohol hand gel is not effective against C. difficile spores so the use of soap and water is essential.”

The CCGs will be displaying posters and leaflets in healthcare settings Derbyshire wide to make patients aware of the cards and to encourage GPs to ask patients to produce theirs at the start of consultations.


Published: 18/08/2014