The 10 NHS trusts where the most patients have been struck down with E. coli have today been named and shamed.
Official figures show The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust topped the charts – with 761 cases in the year running up to the end of August.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Frimley Health followed closely behind, recording 760 and 758 cases of the infection, respectively.
Public Health England data also showed the number of E. coli infections have spiked by five per cent in the space of a year.
Government officials continuously track rates of several nasty bugs, including E. coli, which are recorded in NHS trusts.
The data showed there were 3,967 cases of the diarrhoea bug in August this year, compared to 3,791 during the same month in 2017.
In a breakdown of the trusts, it was found teaching and university hospitals fill most of the worst 10 offenders.
However, the other end of the scale is comprised mainly of smaller, more rural trusts.
Almost half of hospitals on which data was collected – 73 out of 151 – have had more than the average of 302 cases.
PHE’s figures reveal the number of confirmed cases of E.coli in hospitals and also in the trusts’ community services such as at-home care.
The data does not record whether or not the infection has been caught from the NHS.
And the figures do not adjust according to the number of patients a hospital has – so larger trusts in cities are likely to have more infections.
E.coli – full name Escherichia coli – is a bacteria commonly found in people’s bodies and which usually does not cause any illness.
However, it can cause infection in the gut or urinary tract infections (UTIs) which can have unpleasant symptoms.
Diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever are all common effects, while more serious cases of the infection can cause bloody diarrhoea, dehydration or kidney failure.
Hospitals least affected by the bacteria tended to be in more rural areas.
Excluding specialist hospitals such as those for cancer patients, children or women only, Salisbury in Wiltshire had the lowest E.coli rate, with 100 cases during the year.
Salisbury was followed by Weston Area Health in Somerset (119) and Wye Valley near Wales (125).
Others in the bottom ten were Burton, in the Midlands, Whittington Health in London, East Cheshire, Homerton in London, the Isle of Wight, George Eliot Hospital in Warwickshire and Kingston in Surrey.