Luton and Dunstable Hospital foundation trust should have been better prepared for the fallout from the media and damage to its reputation from an E coli outbreak, its chief executive has admitted.

The outbreak of the strain, known as ESBL, was confirmed on 13 October in the Bedfordshire hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

Two babies with the infection died, although it was not the main cause of their death, sparking widespread local and national media coverage. "We failed to stop the link being made between two babies' deaths and E coli," said Stephen Ramsden, also director of the Patient Safety First Campaign.

"There will be a plethora of things to learn from it [in communications]. What we didn't do well enough was prepare in advance."

The trust released a statement after requests from the media. "By then it was too late, the case was lost. We should have been much more aware of the potential for this to go national and much clearer about what was happening," he said.