Dad-of-Two Instructs Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to Investigate
More than 20 patients have been affected by a bacterial outbreak in a hospital, an internal investigation has found.
A serious incident report found a total of 21 people with lung conditions had been infected with mycobacterium abscessus at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge in the months after the specialist heart and lung hospital opened in May 2019.
They include five patients who had undergone lung transplants, with three of those developing an infection linked to the bacteria. One later died after developing pancreatitis “probably caused by one of the antibiotics used” to treat their infection, the report seen by specialist public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell states.
The “most credible source” of the outbreak was the hospital’s water supply becoming contaminated, the report by Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the site, found.
The Trust said there was no evidence patients became infected because of any problems with the clinical care provided to patients or the way facilities were managed at the hospital.
Among those affected is Keith Hurworth, 46, from Nottingham. He underwent a life-saving double lung transplant at the Royal Papworth Hospital in February this year- around six months after the first two infections were identified.
The father-of-two, who was infected with the M.abscessus bacteria, has instructed specialist public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate if more could have been done to prevent him contracting the bacteria.
Expert Opinion“This outbreak has had a major impact on Keith and his family and will no doubt have also caused a great deal of concern amongst other patients.
“Keith and his family were hopeful that his transplant would greatly improve his quality of life but sadly that has not been the case as life saving surgery appears to have led to further serious complications. He is now undergoing tests as the doctors treating him monitor the impact that the infection has had.
“Large public buildings with more complex water systems – such as hospitals, hotels and spas – can be at greater risk of water contamination.
“Understandably Keith has a number of questions about what happened, and how it happened, with the Trust’s own internal investigation highlighting areas of concern.
“Whilst we welcome the fact that the Trust has identified areas for future action, it’s worrying that Keith contracted his infection six months after the first cases were identified. We are now investigating Keith’s concerns so that we can seek to provide him and his family with the answers they deserve.” Clare Pearson - Legal Executive & Associate
Keith had a history of lung disease linked in part to his previous work as a concrete finisher. He had to retire on medical grounds and was on the transplant list.
However, his condition continued to deteriorate. He underwent an emergency double lung transplant at the Royal Papworth in February 2020.
Following post-operative tests, he was diagnosed with an M.abscessus infection.
People with poor lung function are susceptible to the M.abscessus bacteria.
The serious incident report found that five patients were detected as being “colonised or infected” by M.abscessus after lung transplants. A further 16 patients with cystic fibrosis or bronchiectasis – long-term conditions where the airways become unusually wide – were affected. Four cystic fibrosis patients developed symptoms believed to be related to infection with the bacteria.
According to the report, the patients contracted the M.abscessus bacteria after either inhaling the organism when they were using water for cleaning their teeth or rinsing their mouth or drinking or they breathed in small aerosols of contaminated water, when showering or running the taps.
The report made a number of recommendations including the removal and disinfection of contaminated water outlets such as shower heads, installing hydrogen peroxide plants so doses of the chemical can be sent through water pipes and the installation of automatic flushing systems to reduce stagnant water building up in pipes.
M.abscessus susceptible patients are to only drink bottled or filtered water. The hospital should have “robust measures in place” to prevent similar cases of M.abscessus as the consequences of certain patients acquiring the bacteria “are devastating”, the report added.
Keith is married to wife Lisa and has two children called Liam and Libby, aged 22 and 19.
He said: “For years I’ve struggled because of my condition but it was getting worse. I’d been on oxygen for a couple of years and my mobility was getting worse.
“At the end of last year I was really poorly. By February I couldn’t walk very far and I found it really hard to even do basic things many take for granted like dressing myself.
“I was overjoyed to be told that a suitable donor had been found and I would be having a transplant. We hoped that this would be the start of good things to come and it would give me a far better quality of life. Initially after my transplant I felt things were improving and I was looking forward and starting to make plans again.
“Then to be told I had contracted this nasty illness from the hospital was devastating not only for me but also for my wife and the children.
“Now I feel like I’m back to square one. I suffer with really bad fatigue and feel tired most of the time. Knowing that my condition is so serious has been particularly hard to try and come to terms with. I don’t fully know how it will affect me as time progresses and how long I will live for.
“I’ve been told that I can’t have another transplant because once the infection is in your body there’s not a lot that can be done.
“That this outbreak has just not affected me but others as well is worrying. I’m particularly concerned that I caught M.abscessus six months after the first cases and I feel I deserve to know if more could have been done to prevent me from falling ill.”
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people affected by bacterial infections at our illness section. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.