Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 12:45 UK

Matron role returns to fight MRSA

NHS boards have been told to reduce hospital infections by 30% by 2010.

Senior charge nurses will assume the duties matrons used to have as part of a Scottish Government drive to reduce hospital infections.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the move would ensure staff, patients and visitors followed hygiene rules.

In 2005, former health minister, Andy Kerr, announced sisters and charge nurses would be put in charge of cleanliness to cut hospital infections.

All senior charge nurses should have assumed their new duties by 2010.

The government has also given NHS boards a target of reducing hospital infections by 30% within this period.

Announcing plans to change the senior charge nurse role at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 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.

"That's why we must tackle the problem of healthcare associated infections and the revamped senior nurse role is a key part of this.

"In some respects this is about going back to the future as senior charge nurses will have the same responsibility for ward hygiene as matrons used to have - set in the context of a 21st century environment."

The announcement comes after a review of the role of senior charge nurse, following concerns about recruitment and retention.

Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland Director, said she was delighted that the government appeared to be recognising the importance of the position.

She said: "In their leadership role, senior charge nurses can help reduce the rate of healthcare associated infections and ensure safe and effective clinical practices on wards.

"If the implementation phase of the senior charge nurse framework is rolled out and supported appropriately by all health boards, it will make a huge difference to everyone's experience of healthcare."

Infection rates

Data published by Health Protection Scotland showed rates of C.diff between April and June this year were down 7% on the previous quarter.

MRSA cases were also down 6% over the same period.

The Scottish Government said it had achieved a 90% compliance rate with new hand hygiene rules, a key part of their battle against the infections.

According to the figures, 1,732 patients were affected by C.diff in Scotland's hospitals between April and June, compared with 1,861 for the previous quarter.

Despite the overall drop, health authorities in Ayrshire & Arran, Forth Valley, Highland, Lothian, Orkney, Tayside and the Western Isles all showed a slight increase in cases of the infection.

And while cases of MRSA fell Scotland-wide from 197 to 185, a rise in cases was reported in Ayrshire & Arran, Borders, Fife, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Lothian.

The Scottish Government is investing 54m in combating HAIs.

This includes the establishment of a national MRSA screening programme, the prudent prescription of antibiotics and greater compliance with hand washing rules.

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