HOSPITAL staff have admitted that national guidelines issued to prevent an outbreak of a potentially-fatal disease at one of the region’s largest hospitals were not followed.

The guidelines, put into place to protect patients from the C-Diff (clostridium difficile) bacteria, were not adhered to at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, an inquest heard yesterday.

Concerns about substandard care and hygiene at the hospital were raised at the inquest of John Michael Meek, 68, from Darlington, who died in the hospital, in January 2009, following an operation on a bowel perforation.

Teesside Coroner’s Court heard that during his stay as an inpatient, Mr Meek was diagnosed as being infected with C-Diff, which can cause symptoms ranging from mild diarrhoea to life-threatening inflammation of the bowel.

Guidelines issued by the Department of Health state that anyone suspected as suffering from C-Diff should be isolated within two hours in order to prevent further transmission of the disease.

Mr Meek was not isolated according to the guidelines and a statement from his wife, Margaret, said that her husband had shared a ward with others clearly suffering from severe diarrhoea.

Hospital staff also failed to monitor the patient’s bowel movements adequately and did not administer treatment for Mr Meek’s disease until ten days after diagnosis was made.

Gastroenterologist Dr Helen Dallal, who diagnosed Mr Meek with C-Diff, agreed that the hospital had not adhered to national guidelines and should have offered prompt treatment.

She said: “The policy should have been implemented by the whole hospital.”

However, she had failed to ensure it was carried out because she had assumed it was being dealt with by ward staff.

Mr Meek also suffered from fungal infection aspergillosis.

Evidence from microbiologist Professor Suzannah Eykyn stated that this was likely to have been contracted as a result of exposure to building work going on at the hospital during the time of his stay that left corridors full of dust and debris.

The inquest is considering whether the C-Diff and aspergillosis infections were factors that may have contributed to Mr Meek’s death, linked to a perforated bowel.

A verdict is expected today.