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Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield apologises after QEQM Hospital mistake

A mistake by MP Rosie Duffield has had a “damaging effect” on a hospital’s special care baby unit, staff have claimed.

The Labour member for Canterbury and Whitstable has come in for criticism for wrongly stating that MRSA traces had been found on the skin of babies at the QEQM Hospital’s neo-natal intensive care ward.

She made the statement in a letter sent to the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals, Ted Baker, calling for a special investigation into recent safety concerns at the East Kent Hospitals Trust.

Rosie Duffield
Rosie Duffield

But the MRSA traces were found at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

The error has sparked an angry response from staff at the QEQM.

Its neo-natal ward manager, Anne Savage, wrote to Ms Duffield expressing her concerns.

The letter said: “Quite apart from the fact that this is totally untrue, this has had a very damaging effect on our reputation and staff morale, as well as worrying parents needlessly.

“If you’re going to make accusatory statements like this in your political career, at least get your facts right, as it can have damaging consequences.

“On the day that this news was announced, we had parents who wanted to take their babies home, others wanted to be transferred to another hospital and it just created chaos and confusion and in situations like this, patient safety is put at risk.

“It is outrageous to make unsubstantiated claims such as this, presumably aimed at enhancing political opportunity.”

Ms Duffield has since apologised for the mix-up, saying she “wholeheartedly apologises for any confusion the transcription error caused”.

She said: “I have since been assured by the chief executive of the trust, Susan Acott, that following the traces of MRSA found at the neo-natal intensive care unit of William Harvey Hospital, they have undertaken measures including deep-cleaning the unit and treating babies and their parents with skin washes.

“Happily, no babies were fully infected and following these measure I am hopeful that these high safety standards will be maintained across the trust.

“I have written personally to the ward manager of the neo-natal ward manager at QEQM to apologise for the mix-up.

“I’d love to visit her unit to see the excellent work the staff there do and to thank them personally for their time and dedication.”

The Trust has confirmed that the traces of MRSA were found at William Harvey Hospital, rather than QEQM.

A spokesman said: “No babies have been colonised with MRSA at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital.

“At William Harvey Hospital, our routine safety measures immediately alerted staff to traces of MRSA on some babies’ skin in the neo-natal intensive care unit and we immediately took precautionary measures to protect babies.

“No baby was infected with MRSA and the Trust’s measures to ensure the babies remained safe were successful. This included deep-cleaning the unit, treating babies and their parents with skin washes, and nursing babies in an isolation area.”

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay had also backed demands for an apology to NHS staff, calling his fellow Kent MP “inexperienced” and “irresponsible”.

Mr Mackinlay, who was elected in 2015, said: “These claims about our local baby unit from the elected MP for Canterbury and Whitstable are as disappointing as they are false.

“Ms Duffield has not been an MP for very long, but she needs to realise that making wild accusations, without foundation, that damage and discredit our hardworking local NHS staff are unacceptable and irresponsible, but sadly follows the ongoing pattern by Labour of trying to weaponise the NHS for political purposes.

“Being a relatively new and inexperienced MP is no defence.”

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