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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 00:53 GMT
Progress on MRSA safety 'patchy'
Image of hospital cleaning
MRSA is linked to nearly 1,000 deaths each year
Hospitals in England are making patchy progress towards controlling hospital superbugs, a study says.

The Patients Association found that fewer than half of doctors are routinely using hand gels despite MRSA guidelines advising them to do so.

And the survey of 229 NHS staff working in infection control said there were worrying gaps in patient screening and the provision of cleaning services.

The government said more needed to be done, but measures were in place.

MRSA is linked to nearly 1,000 deaths a year and is consistently reported to be one of the public's major concerns about the health service.


But the Patients Association found that only 47% of doctors - 31% in London - always used hand gels.

Expert advice on MRSA states good hand hygiene is vital in keeping infections at bay and under the Health Bill currently before parliament hospitals can face government intervention if they fail to maintain standards.

The report also highlighted access to cleaning services. In some areas only a third of hospitals had facilities available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It added just 44% of patients are screened for MRSA up on arrival and many hospitals were too crowded to properly control the superbug.

It is reprehensible hospitals are not doing more
Tony Field, of MRSA Support

Respondents, which included infection control nurses and trust managers, from 22 out of England's 28 strategic authorities reported the youngest patients with MRSA were under a week old.

Hand hygiene

The Patients Association's director of communications Katherine Murphy said: "Hand hygiene is essential to control infection in a hospital but again our report show that there is a low compliance among doctors."

And she said she would like to see more hospitals appoint clinical staff to oversee MRSA control - nearly two-thirds employ managers.

MRSA graph

Simon Gillespie, of the Healthcare Commission watchdog, said: "Hospitals really must do more to reassure patients that they are doing everything possible to prevent infections from occurring in the first place."

And Tony Field, of MRSA Support, added: "It is reprehensible hospitals are not doing more. If we make inroads into MRSA we will also make inroads into other hospital infections."

But he said wearing mask was as important as hand-washing.

The Department of Health said it would be impossible to screen all patients as some were emergency admissions.

But a spokesman added the Health Bill would toughen procedures.

"The NHS has made a good start with many hospitals already cutting their MRSA rates but more work needs to be done."

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