PERFORMANCE: A trust which has had just one case of clostridium difficile cross infection this year faces a penalty of at least £1.5m for exceeding its target number of cases by three.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust – where many patients died from c diff outbreaks in the mid 2000s – has had 52 cases so far this financial year, against a target maximum of 49. It had 64 cases the year before and has reduced the number of cases by more than 90 per cent compared with 2006. All but one of the cases is thought to have been caused by antibiotics used to treat a patient’s existing illness. There has been just one case of cross-infection.

But its contract with local commissioners carries a penalty of £500,000 for each case over target – and with three weeks of the financial year to go, the trust expects to be penalised at least £1.5m.

Director of infection prevention and control Sarah Mumford said: “In all but one of our cases, patients are likely to have been carriers of the c diff bacteria before their admission to hospital and their infection has been triggered by the potentially life-saving antibiotics they needed.

“We are using targeted antibiotics to treat known c diff carriers, and limiting the use of other broad-spectrum antibiotics that can cause the infection. Cases of c diff are now at their lowest level for six years and we continue to do every possible to ensure patient safety.”