Opinion Former Article

MRSA still a challenge in English NHS Hospitals

Latest figures from Public Health England show MRSA is still a problem for patients in English NHS hospitals despite incentives to reduce it.

The germ Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria that has evolved and become resistant to Meticillin and cause MRSA) is carried by around 30% of the population.

Guidance has been produced to aid in the identification, information exchange and reporting of cases of MRSA bloodstream infection to help Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and healthcare providers conduct post infection reviews. It is considered unacceptable for a patient to acquire an MRSA bloodstream infection while receiving care in a healthcare setting.

Healthcare providers must demonstrate zero tolerance to avoidable MRSA bloodstream infections through a combination of good hygienic practice, appropriate use of antibiotics, improved techniques in the care and use of medical devices, and adherence to best practice guidance.

Some hospitals are doing better than others. Skills of staff conducting clinical care and safe staffing ratios play a part. There are peaks in numbers of infections during December and January and around April and August, and may be due to leave arrangements.

One factor could be the change in policy for screening for MRSA. Since guidance on targeted screening has been issued there has been a slight increase, as reported by MRSA Action UK earlier this year.

There were 1,477 MRSA bloodstream infections reported to Public Health England, over the last 13 months. There were a total of 15,120 MSSA bloodstream infections recorded during this period, an overall 7% increase compared to the same reporting period for last year.

Some of the larger teaching hospitals appear to have more incidents, but not all.

Our observations on the inappropriate use of gloves in Acute care settings (and we do go and observe) leads to less opportunities for hand hygiene. Glove use tends to lead to the spread of bacteria. Clean hands are safer, caring hands, and the cornerstone of good infection prevention and control.

October is World MRSA Awareness Month and we would hope that Trusts review and refocus efforts to build on the successes and improvements seen in the last decade. To lose momentum and to go backwards will add to the burden of other challenges with stronger more resilient bacteria evolving in healthcare settings, and in the community.

Screening is a live safer, and we believe should be universal so that precautions can be taken to reduce the burden of MRSA. The bloodstream infections are only the tip of an ice-burg.

Infection prevention is everyone’s business. As representatives of those who have been affected and sadly bereaved through healthcare associated infections, including MRSA, we would remind both the healthcare professionals and the Government that each case of an avoidable healthcare infection is a person with a family and it is they who pay the ultimate price for not getting infection prevention right first time every time.

Derek Butler
Chair, MRSA Action UK
Email: derek.j.butler@mrsaactionuk.net
Website: http://mrsaactionuk.net/pottedhistoryMRSA.html
Telephone: 07762 741114

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