Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 09:53 UK

MRSA screening programme to begin

MRSA bacteria
Hospital patients will be swabbed for the MRSA superbug

Hospital patients in Ayrshire, Grampian and the Western Isles will be screened for the MRSA superbug, as part of a new year-long pilot scheme.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon launched the initiative during a visit to Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock.

Three health boards are taking part in the programme, in which all patients will be swabbed for the superbug in an attempt to reduce infection rates.

Screening will be rolled out across the country if the trial is successful.

Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) are believed to be a factor in almost 2,000 deaths every year in Scotland.

NHS Scotland currently spends about 183m on treating HAIs.

'Minimise the risks'

Ms Sturgeon said: "It's crucial that the public have confidence in their NHS and know that they're going to get the best possible care if they need hospital treatment.

"HAI is a problem for health services around the world and Scotland is no different.

"But we're determined to do all we can to minimise the risk that patients will contract MRSA, which can cause unnecessary complications."

She added that the move was part of a wider drive to minimise the impact of HAIs.

Ms Sturgeon said that the national hand hygiene campaign and a new reporting system for the superbug Clostridium Difficile (C.diff) had already been well established.

An interim report on the MRSA pilot project is due by the end of March next year.

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