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New patient card launched to help fight infection

Patients who test positive for the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile (C. diff) in County Durham and Darlington, will be given a new card to help prevent them from getting ill from it again in the future.

 The cards, which are being launched in a joint initiative between County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), are designed to inform other healthcare professionals that the patient has had a C. diff infection in the past, and so may be susceptible to it again.

 C. diff is a bacterium which lives harmlessly in the intestines of about 3% of the population. Certain antibiotics can destroy the 'friendly' bacteria which also exist in the gut, causing the C. diff bacteria to grow and multiply. When this occurs, the C. diff bacteria produce toxins which can damage the bowel, causing diarrhoea and painful abdominal cramps.

Due to its interaction with the prolonged use of antibiotics, C. diff is most commonly contracted by people who are staying in a healthcare environment such as a hospital or care home, although it can be spread very easily by an infected patient if good hygiene practice is not implemented.

Tricia Gordon, Senior Infection Control Nurse at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The C. diff card is a simple way of helping to reduce the risk of patients getting ill from C. diff again and ensuring they receive the appropriate care from healthcare professionals once they are aware of their status. It has proved effective in other areas and we hope it will support patients and healthcare professionals in our area in reducing the risks associated with C. diff."

The cards will be used by health professionals to help decide what medicines, particularly antibiotics; patients should be prescribed, as only certain antibiotics will cause the bacterial imbalance which can lead to a C. diff infection.

Reducing the number of patients contracting C. diff infections is a major priority for the NHS, with each acute trust in the country given strict targets to adhere to. County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust's 2013/2014 target is 40 patients per 100,000. In the first half of the year, the Trust recorded 13 cases of C. diff infection against its target of 22. The introduction of the C. diff card is one of the many measures being implemented across the Trust to reduce the risk of infection. Patients who carry the card are asked to show it to any health professional involved in their care. This includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and other healthcare workers.

'The treatment I have received from all the staff has been excellent and could you extend my thanks to them all. A very thankful and relieved patient'.

Patient, Dermatology Outpatients Department, University Hospital of North Durham