The number of deaths linked to the hospital superbug MRSA has risen by nearly a quarter, statistics show.
MRSA is linked to over 1,000 deaths each year
The Office for National Statistics data revealed that between 2003 and 2004 the mentions of MRSA on death certificates increased by 22% to 1,168.
It does not necessarily mean the superbug was the cause of death, just that it contributed to it.
Most of the deaths were in the older age groups and rates were higher among men than women.
MRSA was mentioned on two out of every 1,000 deaths certificates in England and Wales, the statistics showed.
But it was cited as the underlying cause on 360 - up from 195 in 2000.
The figures have been published a few months before the Healthcare Commission launches a study into why some trusts have lower MRSA rates than others.
Despite the rise, Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley said: "It is important to put this in to context.
"These figures show that out of the 12m people that go in to hospital in a year about 360 of them probably die directly of MRSA, but it is unacceptable for anyone to die unnecessarily from infections.
"Many people who have MRSA are very, very sick people prone to infection and not all infections are avoidable, but we are ensuring that the NHS has good hand hygiene and clinical procedures to prevent the ones that are.
"We are now legislating to put a hygiene code and a tougher inspection regime into law, to drive up standards of hygiene and infection control, with ultimate sanctions for trusts who fail to deliver."
But Patients Association chairman Michael Summers said: "We are disappointed by these new figures.
"It is clear that MRSA and hospital infections are winning the war in many of our wards."
He added simple hygiene measures, such as washing hands, could have a huge impact and should be taken by everyone in hospitals."
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley added: "The government is still failing to tackle the problem, despite pledges to the contrary.
"Every time a worse statistic is released, patient confidence in the government's policy is undermined further."
And Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, said: "It's time to get back to basics and bring in more cleaners to make sure that hospital wards and departments are kept clean and infection free.
"Hospital cleaners are battling against the odds with too many wards to clean and not enough staff.
"They complain about cheap disinfectants, shoddy equipment, and a lack of training which are all barriers to cleaner hospitals."