HOSPITAL protocols for dealing with cases of the infectious disease C-difficile have vastly improved over the past 12 months, according to a senior medic.

Speaking at an inquest Dr Stephen Stanaway, medical director at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, said: “Without any doubt there have been enormous changes in the prevention of infection and the way we deal with cases when they do occur.”

He said there had been “a sea change”, partly brought about by the death of 86-year-old Margaret Hanmer, who contracted the bug while a patient at the hospital in March last year.

Following her death her family, who learned she had the infection from the daughter of another patient, raised concerns about the treatment she had received and a possible shortage of staff.

Mrs Hanmer, of Piercy Avenue, Marchwiel, was admitted to the hospital on March 21 with breathing difficulties.

Her condition improved and her return home was delayed only because a care package was not yet in place.

She then contracted C-diff and was moved into an isolation ward, where she died on April 2.

The inquest heard, however, that there had been a 48-hour delay in implementing the infection control pathway after the pathology laboratory had confirmed the disease.

Dr Stanaway told the hearing at Ruthin: “There was a delay in administering anti-biotics but, sadly, I don’t think it would have changed the final outcome.”

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mrs Hanmer died of C-diff and advanced breast cancer – she had had a mastectomy in 2011 – with old age and heart disease as contributory factors.

Dr Stanaway said her death had occurred at a time when tighter controls and monitoring were being introduced and recent figures showed the measures were proving successful.

“I am absolutely convinced the systems we have in place now will limit dramatically the chances of this happening again,” he said.

Heather Piggott, interim director of nursing, who was called to respond to concerns about staffing levels on the two wards on which Mrs Hanmer had been a patient, said the situation was reviewed four times a day and there was flexibility in the system.

“We are always moving staff,” she said.

Recording a conclusion of death from natural causes, David Pojur, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central, said he was satisfied Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board had addressed the concerns raised and so there was no need for him to issue a Regulation 28 report to prevent future deaths.

“Lessons have been learned and there have been significant improvements,” he said, adding: “The health board is clearly much more robust in dealing with infection prevention.”