‘Vomiting bug’ is still at large at elderly hospital ward

  • Norovirus-hit Churchill Ward at Hemel Hempstead Hospital is being reviewed on a daily basis
  • Son and daughter of one affected patient revealed concerns about care
  • NHS Trust says it is following ‘best practice’ on preventing spread of virus

Precautions to contain the ‘winter vomiting bug’ norovirus at an elderly patients’ ward in Hemel Hempstead hospital are being reviewed on a daily basis, health bosses have confirmed.

A case of suspected norovirus broke out a the site’s Churchill Ward, for elderly patients awaiting placement in a care home, more than a week ago.

The West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the town facility alongside Watford and St Albans hospitals, last week confirmed that the 28-bed Churchill Ward has been put into isolation due to the outbreak of the so-called ‘winter vomiting bug’.

Staff at the ward, to which patients who either need to be found or assessed for new care arrangements or accommodation are transferred, are treating ‘a small number of patients’ suspected to have the virus, and have closed Churchill ward to new admissions to try and minimise the spread of the illness.

Visitors are also banned from entering the ward, but the situation is being monitored daily.

The son and daughter of one of the affected patients, 93-year-old Joan Sayer of Gatecroft, Hemel Hempstead, raised concerns to ward staff about the spread of the bug.

They say their mother had been discharged from Watford General Hospital after being cleared of a chest infection, and was awaiting further care and accommodation while at Churchill.

Son Tony Sayer said: “I think the ward was aware there was a problem.

“I have been ill with a bug and I rang to check how my mother was – we were told they were aware there was a problem and that they were working on it. It then took them a further four days or so to put the ward into isolation, and with visitors coming in and going out it’s not hard to see how the bug has spread around.

“I am no clinical expert but I just think about the age of the people in that particular ward – they are all senior citizens, my mum is 93 – the care and the hygiene needs to be of a higher standard. I think it’s a little lax.

Regularly washing hands can help keep norovirus at bay.

Regularly washing hands can help keep norovirus at bay.

“It’s ironic that when you are clean and healthy, they put you somewhere for you to get sick again.”

Professor Tracey Carter, chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control at the Trust, said: “I was sorry to hear Mr Sayer had concerns about the care we have provided to his mother.

“I have spoken to him personally and I have shared his feedback with our team on the ward.

“The matron in charge of the ward has also made contact with Mr Sayer and will continue to meet with him whilst his mother is a patient with us.

It’s ironic that when you are clean and healthy, they put you somewhere for you to get sick again

Tony Sayer, son of norovirus patient at Hemel Hempstead Hospital

“I have also explained our infection control and prevention procedures to Mr Sayer and assured him that we are following best practice guidelines in relation to the management of norovirus on the ward.

“Norovirus is a common condition in hospitals at this time of year. However, I know it can be unsettling for patients and their relatives when there are confirmed cases on a ward.”

Professor Carter also confirmed the condition – which causes vomiting and diarrhoea – is not usually dangerous, and most people make a full recovery within a couple of days without having to see their GP.

Norovirus is easily spread as the virus can survive for several days on surfaces or objects touched by an infected person. Local people can play their part by washing hands regularly and not visiting hospitals if they feel unwell.

For more information about norovirus, including how it can be prevented, visit www.nhs.uk/norovirus or call NHS 111.

Professor Tracey Carter is chief nurse at the West Herts Hospitals Trust

Professor Tracey Carter is chief nurse at the West Herts Hospitals Trust