Page last updated at 10:26 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 11:26 UK

Further drop in NHS infections

Mop and bucket
Hospital cleanliness is one area the government has focused on

The number of MRSA infections in hospitals in England has fallen by 40% compared with the same period last year, figures show.

Between April and June this year 509 cases were reported, compared with 839 in the same quarter in 2008, the Health Protection Agency said.

The latest figure is a quarter of the peak of nearly 2,000 in 2004.

Rates of Clostridium difficile infection are also continuing to fall with a 37% drop from last year.

The HPA welcomed the progress but warned against complacency.

These are impressive results but we cannot afford to become complacent
Dr Christine McCartney, HPA

The government met its target to halve 2004 MRSA rates in summer 2008, and at the time ministers called for the NHS needs to focus on sustaining the reduction.

In April this year the Care Quality Commission identified 21 trusts in England which were not doing enough in areas such as cleanliness and decontamination.

The regulator warned this small group of hospitals did not improve they would face tough measures such as fines and closure of services.

The latest figures show a 27% fall in MRSA infections in the second quarter of 2009 compared with the first three months of the year.

For C. difficile, there were 6,855 cases reported in patients aged two years and over during the April to June 2009, compared with 8,357 cases in January to March - an 18% reduction.


Dr Christine McCartney, executive director for the HPA's Healthcare Associated Infection and Anti-Microbial Resistance Programme said the continued reductions showed infection control was still a priority for the NHS.

"These are impressive results but we cannot afford to become complacent.

"Health workers must continue to use effective infection control measures in order to drive down infections further."

Health Minister, Mike O'Brien, said NHS staff should be proud of the achievement.

"Their hard work, together with our strategy for reducing infection is continuing to deliver real improvements in clean, safe care for patients.

"However, we are clear that one avoidable infection is one infection too many and we continue to work tirelessly to reduce infection rates further."

Patients Association director Katherine Murphy said: "It's laudable that the NHS is continuing to bring infection rates down but patients are still faced with a postcode lottery.

"Some trusts are lagging far behind the rest.

"We also have to remember that even with these improvements the NHS still performs poorly on infection control compared to other countries in Europe - we've still got a long way to go to ensure safety for patients."

Nigel Ellis, head of national inspection and assessment at the Care Quality Commission, said the figures were "impressive".

"But it's certainly not a sign that the NHS can take its eye off the ball.

"We will keep up our extensive programme of unannounced inspections and encourage the NHS to continue its focus on improving.

"Where necessary we will continue to take enforcement action to make sure this happens."

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