Public confidence in the NHS has been “shaken” by the recent outbreak of hospital infections, the Health Secretary has conceded.
But Jeane Freeman insisted “significant progress” had been made in Scotland following the Clostridium Difficile outbreak which contributed to the death of 34 patients at the Vale of Leven Hospital more than a decade ago.
In January two premature infants died after contracting staphylococcus aureus at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow last month.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde later confirmed the infection was an extremely rare strain, and it was the first time it has been identified in Scotland.
Those deaths came after the Crown Office announced it was looking into the death of a 73-year-old woman and a 10-year-old boy at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
Both patients died after catching the cryptococcus infection, which is linked to pigeon droppings.
Addressing MSPs Ms Freeman said: “I understand that public confidence has been shaken.”
She said that was “in part” why she had made a statement to Holyrood on the “significant improvements that have been made in terms of infection prevention and control across Scotland”.
The Health Secretary insisted: “Scotland has made significant progress in the last decade on infection prevention and control, spurred by the tragedy of the loss of 34 lives in the Vale of Leven, where C.diff was a contributory factor.
“NHS Scotland is now in a position to identify incidents and outbreaks much earlier and take immediate action.”
In the wake of the two deaths at the flagship £842 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Ms Freeman instructed hygiene inspectors from the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate to carry out an unannounced visit – the results of which will published on March 8.
She also announced a major review of the design, build, handover and maintenance at the hospital and how these factors contribute to “effective infection control”.
Two joint chairs for this work should be announced shortly, Ms Freeman said.
She added: “My officials are in the concluding stage of appointing two co-chairs of this review.
“I fully appreciate members will be keen to see this work begin as a matter of urgency. I am too.
“But I am also adamant we take the time we need to appoint the right clinical experts to lead this clinically important work.”
She added: “The focus is on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital but the lessons are for NHS Scotland, we need to ensure our physical infrastructure is designed, built and maintained to maximise infection prevention and control.”