Superbugs report blames hospitals

A DAMNING report has today revealed that hospitals across the country are not doing enough to target hospital infections such as MRSA.At Ipswich Hospital, despite new measures being put in place, MRSA figures have barely reduced since last year.

A DAMNING report has today revealed that hospitals across the country are not doing enough to target hospital infections such as MRSA.

At Ipswich Hospital, despite new measures being put in place, MRSA figures have barely reduced since last year.

Figures reveal there were 52 cases at Ipswich Hospital Trust between April 2003 and March 2004, an MRSA rate of 0.21 cases per 1,000 overnight stays.

It means that one in 5,000 patients staying overnight at the hospital had contracted the bug.

Today the report from the National Audit Office stated that four years on from the first report the picture across the country is bleak and has uncovered what has been described as "an appalling lack of progress by the Department of Health and the NHS in tackling hospital acquired infection."

On the whole, figures in the East of the country have dropped but everywhere else the amount of infections are rising.

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In January this year, the Evening Star revealed the extent of hospital infections at Ipswich Hospital for the first time.

Yesterday the Health Protection Agency revealed new figures which have shown little change. Ipswich is average across the county. The highest figures in the region are held by Addenbrookes and the lowest are held by Peterborough.

Today Edward Leigh MP who is chairman of the committee of public accounts slammed the NHS for not doing enough about the problem.

He said: "The flurry of activity by hospitals in establishing systems and processes for countering hospital acquired infection has simply not translated itself into real progress on the ground.

"Good infection control is being thwarted by high bed occupancy levels, a lack of isolation facilities and too many patients with differing conditions being placed together on wards. Meanwhile the problem of drug resistance is growing.

"It is outrageous that four years on from its original report, the NAO is still highlighting problems of poor hospital cleanliness, lax hand-washing practices among clinical staff, under resourced infection control teams and a general culture among NHS staff of thinking that good infection control practice is someone else's problem."

However Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said that huge amounts of effort were going in to combating infectious diseases.

In evey ward there are now bug stop stations where every nurse, patient and visitor must wash their hands with an alcohol based gel before going on to the wards. There are also link nurses on each ward who have particular responsibility for infection control in their area.

Modern matrons are also being introduced to the hospital and a large part of their role is concentrating on cleanliness and infection.

Ipswich hospital is renowned for its pressure on beds and is often running at more than 90 per cent bed occupancy when the target is 82 pc. Having too many people in hospitals can also contribute to the rise in infectious diseases.

Ms Rowsell said: "There has been immense pressure on beds for some time now.

"This underlines the importance of our major new investment being taken in our hospital which is the new Garrett Anderson centre. This means we will be able to get our bed occupancy down."

She said wherever possible, patients with MRSA were isolated. Ms Rowsell also stressed that there is also a growing prevalence of people in the community with MRSA who can bring it in to the hospital with them rather than picking it up there and added that saying that no move in the figures constituted a lack of progress from the hospital was too simplistic.

She said: "Everyone has put in a lot of hard work and effort firstly into preventing infection of the disease and also controlling it.

"It is a challenge. There are 8,000 people a day, every day on site, with 800 people actually in hospital and we do have a high bed occupancy rate.

"Infection control is an area where we know we can always do better and there is no room for complacency

"A lot of people have worked very hard to improve things. It is a challenge and one we know we have to tackle."

What do you think of the problem? Write to us at Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or via email at eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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