Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Sunday, 30 August 2009 00:01 UK

Superbug screening for patients

Swab
Staff demonstrated how patients would be swabbed for infection

Every patient going to hospital for an operation in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area is to be screened for MRSA by the end of the year.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley is the first of the health board's 10 acute hospitals to begin screening.

The remaining nine will all follow suit between now and December.

The aim of the screening programme is to identify and treat patients who have MRSA, thereby reducing the risk of it spreading.

Other groups of patients who will be screened for the superbug include all elective and emergency admissions to care of the elderly, renal, dermatology and vascular surgical specialties.

If a patient is found to have MRSA present on either their skin or in their nose it will be treated with an eradication plan before the patient is admitted
Dr Brian Cowan
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Dr Brian Cowan, the health board's medical director, said the move was part of the board's drive to reduce healthcare associated infections.

He said: "Screening will allow us to identify people admitted to our hospitals with MRSA and thus minimise the risk of infections spreading.

"As part of the routine pre-admission process that patients currently undergo a simple nasal swab will also be taken to test for MRSA.

"If a patient is found to have MRSA present on either their skin or in their nose it will be treated with an eradication plan before the patient is admitted."

MRSA is normally found on the skin or in the nose, often with no harmful effects.

It is only when the MRSA enters an open wound that infections can occur.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which is the largest health board in the UK, said it had already achieved "significant results" in driving down MRSA rates in its hospitals, with a 9% year on year drop since 2005/06.

Fatal outbreak

It estimated it will screen some 87,000 patients per year prior to admission.

Some "high risk" patients are already screened for MRSA before they are admitted, including elective patients for orthopaedic and plastic surgery.

In addition, local infection control teams also carry out targeted screening based on risk assessment.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said in April that national screening would be introduced after a pilot by three health boards which started in June 2008.

Anyone who tested positive for MRSA was given a five-day course of treatment to make sure the bacteria did not get into their bloodstream or carry to other patients.

An independent public inquiry is to be held into a fatal outbreak of a different infection - Clostridium difficile - in which 18 people died at the Royal Alexandra between December 2007 and June 2008.



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