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Nurse scholarship launched as Vale of Leven legacy

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Nurses in Scotland will be able to apply for a “commemorative scholarship” to help improve patient care in the wake of a high profile infection control breakdown that occurred nearly a decade ago.

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison has announced a £75,000 scholarship and improvement fund to remember the victims of the Clostridium difficile outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

“These programmes will equip nurses with research evidence and skills to bring into the wider workforce”

Shona Robison

More than 30 patients died after contracting C. difficile in the two years between January 2007 and December 2008 at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

Ms Robison said the new funding would be split between two schemes, one focusing on research and the other on training.

The Vale of Leven Inspiring Care Scholarship will provide £25,000 for nurses from both the acute and community sectors to complete research into improving patient care, in line with recommendations made by the Vale of Leven Inquiry, and share their findings with colleagues across Scotland.

Meanwhile, Ms Robison also announced the Vale of Leven Improving Care Legacy, a £50,000 fund for individual nurses or teams to undertake quality improvement leadership training.


Shona Robison

Shona Robison

As with the scholarship, projects funded by the legacy will focus on demonstrable improvements to patient care, and those taking part must share their learning both locally and nationally, she said.

Ms Robison said: “I’m pleased to be able to confirm this scholarship programme and improvement project fund to recognise the survivors and in memory of those who died at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

“We’ve engaged closely with patients and their families throughout this process and they agree that this is a fitting and enduring legacy; one which will continue to drive improvements in practice well into the future,” she said.

“Significant improvements have already been made since the Vale of Leven hospital outbreak in 2007, particularly around infection prevention and control measures, but more can be done to achieve our aim of a world class health service,” said Ms Robison.

She added: “It’s important to me that these tragic events ultimately lead to meaningful improvements in patient care. These programmes will equip nurses with research evidence and skills to bring into the wider workforce, continually improving the safety of the healthcare environment.”

Professor Fiona McQueen, Scotland’s chief nursing officer and chair of the Vale of Leven Implementation Group, said: “As we move through the 21st century, we nurses must be confident in becoming ‘nurses of tomorrow’.

“The nurses taking part in this improvement programme and, crucially, sharing their learning with their colleagues across the country, will play an important role in that,” she said. “I look forward very much to hearing about their experiences.

CNO for Scotland

Professor Fiona McQueen appointed CNO for Scotland

Fiona McQueen

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the family members who are part of the Vale of Leven implementation group for their valued contribution and thoughtful challenge to this work,” she added.

“They provide us with a very grounded view of what happened and why we need to learn from events, and these scholarships will provide focussed opportunities for nurses to look at what the recommendations mean for their practice,” said Professor McQueen.

The Vale of Leven Inquiry into the C difficile outbreak at the Glasgow hospital that led to the deaths of 34 patients identified a number of serious failures, both on a personal and systemic level.

These included governance and management failures within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which created an environment where infection prevention and control was inadequate.

There were also significant deficiencies in infection prevention and control practices in the hospital itself, as well as deficiencies in nursing and medical care that seriously compromised patient safety.

As well as those that died, the inquiry found that a total of 143 patients tested positive for C. difficile during the two-year period between 2007 and 2009.

The inquiry published its final report on 24 November 2014, making 75 recommendations – 65 for NHS boards, nine for Scottish Government and one for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

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