AN expert is being brought in to find out why Bolton is failing to control superbug infections.

There were 77 cases of clostridium difficile (C.diff) across Bolton between April and December — 48 more cases than the annual maximum target of 28.

There have been 59 cases at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, which includes the Royal Bolton Hospital.

With three months still to go, the figure is expected to rise further and means the Trust could face a £4.5 million fine.

Su Long, designate chief officer of Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said in the North of England, Bolton is the only medium acute trust to have gone over its target for C.diff, and of the North’s 44 trusts, it is one of just four to have failed so far this year.

The Trust has on average between eight and 10 cases of the superbug each month. In December it had 12 cases.

Ms Long said despite work with the Trust to try and bring down the number of cases, the figure was not improving.

She added the external expert would review action plans and see if anything more could be done.

Ms Long said: “These levels are not acceptable, and I’m sure all Bolton people would agree cases of C.diff need to be lower.”

Dr Colin Mercer, clinical director for governance and safety at the CCG, said the issue needed to be addressed or the Trust would fail the target again next year.

He added: “We want to be aiming for zero cases each month. Even if there are only five, it is not much good if you are the patient who is one of the five.

“It is going to be a big problem next year and we need to do something about it.”

C.diff can cause severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever.

A panel set up to review every case at the hospital has found the majority were “unavoidable”.

Heather Edwards, head of communications at the Trust, said: “Every single case of C.diff that happens while a patient is in the care of the Trust is reviewed thoroughly to look at possible causes.

“In the vast majority of cases they have been caused by the use of necessary antibiotics and are therefore unavoidable. We continue to work hard on this aspect of care and our revised antibiotic prescribing policy is being externally validated.”