Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Hospital infection rates decline

surgeons washing hands
Infections like MRSA are combated by improved hygiene

Levels of MRSA and clostridium difficile are falling in Scottish hospitals, according to new figures.

Health Protection Scotland said from July to September 2008 the number of cases of MRSA were down 7%, the lowest level since monitoring began in 2001.

Cases of C.difficile were 14% lower than the previous quarter but slightly higher compared to the year before.

It is not yet clear whether the drop in C.diff is due to improved controls or seasonal fluctuations.

According to the figures, 1,433 patients were affected by C.diff in Scotland's hospitals between July and September, compared with 1,732 for the previous quarter.

Cases of MRSA fell Scotland wide from 185 to 149.

'Avoidable infections'

Scotland's health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon said the figures gave "real cause for optimism".

She said: "We're now seeing MRSA rates at their lowest since the end of 2003, having fallen for six quarters in a row.

"Meanwhile C.diff rates are also down. While seasonal factors may be partly responsible for the reduction from the previous quarter, it is encouraging there has also been a drop compared to the same quarter last year.

"We're making good progress - the challenge now is to ensure we build on this to eliminate all avoidable infections from our hospitals."

The figures come as a new report details the level of hand hygiene compliance on the wards.

In 2007 the Scottish Government launched a hand washing campaign in an effort to reduce infections like MRSA.

The report shows that while there is a national success rate of 93%, NHS Forth Valley and NHS Ayrshire and Arran achieved 97%, while NHS Highland came at the bottom of the table with only a 89% compliance rate.

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