Page last updated at 23:58 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 00:58 UK

Watchdog questions MRSA progress

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

MRSA
Some NHS trusts are not meeting hygiene standards

Concerns are being raised about NHS performance on infection control in England - just weeks after ministers announced MRSA targets had been met.

The Healthcare Commission's annual report on NHS performance showed a quarter of trusts were struggling to meet the hygiene code.

The data also showed that just over half of hospitals had managed a sustained reduction in MRSA rates.

It comes after ministers claimed they were winning the superbug fight.

In September, Gordon Brown hailed the "tremendous achievement" in halving the national MRSA rate over the previous three years.

Some trusts still have some way to go to get basic systems in place
Anna Walker, of the Healthcare Commission

But the watchdog adopts a slightly different approach to measuring performance.

Instead of relying on national quarterly figures as the government does, the Healthcare Commission uses annual figures broken down on a trust-by-trust basis which officials said was a better demonstration of sustained improvement.

Code

These showed that only 52% of trusts had reduced MRSA by 60% - the figure was set higher than the national target in talks with ministers to ensure it was met across the board.

The watchdog also identified 114 out of 391 NHS trusts that had failed to meet one of the three core standards that make up the hygiene code.

These cover decontamination of equipment, cleanliness and management.

By April, all trusts are expected to meet each of these standards.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said while it was good news that MRSA rates overall were coming down, more needed to be done.

'Lower risks'

"Some trusts still have some way to go to get basic systems in place."

And both the opposition parties said the government was not doing enough to tackle infections.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said officials were working with trusts that were experiencing problems.

But she added: "Latest figures show that the risk of becoming infected with an MRSA bacteraemia is at its lowest for five years."




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