AN investigation has been launched after four patients on the same hospital ward were found to have a potentially fatal bug.

They were staying on Level 8 at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton when the outbreak of clostridium difficile happened.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has declared it a serious incident and is looking into how it happened and how it can be avoided in the future.

The c-diff outbreak in July was followed by another incident on the same ward at the end of August.

On this occasion two patients were found to be carrying a highly resistant infection known as CPE.

This has been identified internationally and in several large trusts in the north west and London.

All patients were swabbed and there were no further cases.

A report to the trust board, which met yesterday, said: “On review of the patient records, root cause analysis identified there had been lapses in care primarily in relation to cleaning standards.

“A deep clean has been undertaken of the whole ward and a trial of ultraviolet cleaning is being undertaken at the end of September.”

Trust chief nurse Nicola Ranger said: “There is an issue that busy-ness means cleaning teams can’t get in to do the deep cleans they want to.” The trust is now working with staff to improve cleaning and reduce the risk of further outbreaks.

C-diff causes diarrhoea and colitis, an infection of the intestines.

Elderly patients and those in intensive care are more vulnerable to the disease as they are the ones most often on antibiotics, which can help trigger the infection.

Infections usually respond well to treatment, with most people making a full recovery in a week or two.

The trust’s annual infection prevention and control annual report for 2016/7 was also discussed at yesterday’s meeting.

It revealed the trust reported 51 cases of C-diff among patients against a target of 46.

Work being done also includes hand hygiene awareness training and workshops and isolating patients more quickly.

There were also three reported cases of MRSA against a standard of none.

The trust also had 20 outbreaks of the sickness and diarrhoea bug norovirus, which put extra pressures as beds and wards had to be temporarily closed.

Wards at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath were particularly affected and the trust is looking into this to try to avoid a repeat over the winter months.