Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

MRSA infections continue to fall

Hand washing is thought to be the best way to tackle MRSA

The number of MRSA cases in English hospitals has continued to fall, latest figures show.

The Health Protection Agency said there were 725 cases between July to September this year, a 13% fall from 837 the previous quarter.

The government met its target to halve 2004 MRSA rates in the summer, but ministers said the NHS should now focus on sustaining the reduction.

But an NHS watchdog said some hospitals could do more.

To keep rates going down, trusts must ensure their systems protect every patient, every time
Anna Walker, Healthcare Commission

The HPA figures also show MRSA infections were 33% down from the corresponding quarter of 2007, when 1,082 reports were received.

Professor Mike Catchpole, director of the HPA Centre for Infections, said: "This continued reduction in cases of MRSA is testament to the huge efforts being made across the NHS to tackle the problem of healthcare associated infections, which remain a big challenge throughout the world.

"To ensure this downward trend continues we cannot be complacent. We must all play our part - the public and healthcare workers - by ensuring the infection control measures that have made the current fight against MRSA so successful remain in place."

'System gaps'

The Healthcare Commission, an NHS watchdog, praised the progress made on MRSA rates, but said there were still problems.

Anna Walker, Healthcare Commission's chief executive, said: "We are clear NHS trusts are taking infection prevention and control very seriously.

"This has played a key role in the decline in MRSA rates."

We have set a target for the NHS to sustain this reduction in MRSA infections
Ann Keen, health minister

But she added: "We have seen from our inspections and assessments that many trusts still have gaps in their systems that need closing.

"To keep rates going down, trusts must ensure their systems protect every patient, every time.

"This applies to all healthcare-associated infections, not just MRSA."

Health minister Ann Keen said she was "delighted" MRSA infections had continued to fall.

But she added: "We have set a target for the NHS to sustain this reduction in MRSA infections and deliver a 30% reduction in C. difficile in the next three years.

"We will also screen all relevant elective admissions for MRSA from April and are developing a national minimum standard for MRSA infections that all trusts must meet."

Katherine Wilson, campaign lead of the National Patient Safety Agency's Clean Your Hands initiative said: "Hands are one of the main ways that infections can spread around hospital settings, so it is imperative that all healthcare staff follow the existing guidelines and clean their hands at the point of patient care as this is where there is the greatest risk of transmission."

Elsewhere in the UK, rates of MRSA are falling in Scotland and Northern Ireland and have remained steady in Wales.

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