ATTEMPTS to find out what local councils knew about the E coli outbreak and when they knew it have proved unsuccessful.

We asked Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset councils when they knew about the recent outbreak, which has affected 10 people since July, and whether they agreed with the handling of the situation by Public Health England (PHE).

But all three councils repeatedly told us we would have to put our enquiries to PHE.

It was a similarly difficult situation getting any comments from councillors who are responsible for public health issues – and receive a cabinet member’s allowance for this role.

Attempts to speak to Cllr Jane Kelly, Bournemouth’s cabinet member for partnerships, regen-eration and public health, were unsuccessful, and Cllr Janet Walton, her counterpart in Poole, was also unavailable.

Cllr Colin Jamieson, Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for public health, chose not to comment on PHE’s handling of the situation but did say: “If there are communication issues arising out of this then that needs to be looked into.”

Meanwhile, Public Health Dorset has attempted to clarify its role in the process and said PHE had followed the correct procedures.

Dr David Phillips, the director of Public Health Dorset, commented: “In the current E coli outbreak in Dorset we have been kept informed by PHE since the first case and have been involved in the outbreak control team when an outbreak was declared.

“We are clear that PHE have followed national guidance in this process and have used all the available resources including their national experts to try to identify the cause of this outbreak.

“That said, as has been identified this particular type of E coli organism has not been seen in the UK for very many years and our knowledge of it is therefore very limited and it is clear this is a highly unusual outbreak and despite very thorough investigation a single cause or source of the organism has yet been identified,” he added.

“This is sometimes the case, and we just have to keep working away.

“Our thoughts and concerns are with the people affected and their families.

“We would want to re-emphasise the PHE advice for people who have symptoms, such as bloody diarrhoea, to seek medical advice and be vigilant around good hand hygiene.”

Inspectors: 'range of potential sources'

BACK in July, environmental health inspectors said investigations into the E Coli outbreak had “narrowed down a range of potential sources”.

Louise Jones, team manager for public safety at Bournemouth council, said then: “Our department has been made aware of two cases of E coli in recent days and we believe that they might be linked.

“We hope that both people concerned make a quick and full recovery, we are devoting our efforts to identifying the cause and eliminating any risk to the public.

“Investigations so far have narrowed down a range of potential sources and it is possible that legal action will follow if commercial premises are involved.

“We can say no more at this stage. However, E coli and its variants can come from a number of sources and we have to review all possibilities.”