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Midlands hospitals winning the MRSA battle

19th September 2008

Birmingham hospitals are celebrating a fall in the number of MRSA infections by almost two thirds in two years.

Infections are down across the country, leading the Government to declare victory in the battle against hospital acquired infections.

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, hailed the reduction as “dramatic” in a letter to NHS staff. He said they had beaten a national target of halving cases of the potentially fatal hospital-acquired infection since 2004.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Sandwell Hospital and City Hospital in Birmingham, recorded seven cases in the three months from April to June this year, down from 20 in the same period two years ago.

The number of cases at University Hospital Birmingham, the trust which runs the Queen Elizabeth, was down from 30 to 11.

And Heart of England NHS Trust, which runs Good Hope and Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham as well as Solihull Hospital, recorded a fall from 28 cases to 15.

Cases of MRSA have fallen in other parts of the West Midlands. University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, which operates University Hospital, Coventry, recorded five infections, down from 18 two years ago.

And cases at the The Royal Hospital in Wolverhampton fell from 18 to 5.

Across the UK, infection rates more than halved, from 1,742 in April-June 2006 to 836 in April-June.

Peter Blythin, Director of Nursing and Workforce with the West Midlands Health Authority, said: “We are very pleased the latest figures for MRSA infections for local health services across the West Midlands reflect the national figures, which show the risk of becoming infected with an MRSA bacteraemia is at its lowest for five years. In the West Midlands MRSA bacteraemia rates for April to July 2008 show an all time low. We are ambitious our hospitals and community services can go even further to reduce infection rates, and build on the considerable improvements already achieved, so patients can have confidence in services.”

In a letter to NHS staff, from 10 Downing Street, Mr Brown wrote: “This tremendous achievement is down to you, the staff of the NHS, and I wanted to write to thank you on behalf of everyone who relies on the NHS for your efforts over the course of the last year.

“These improvements come on top of significant falls in waiting times and they show that when you, the staff, are supported in the right ways you can achieve great things for the people of this country.”

But Conservatives accused the Government of “spin” because the publication of the MRSA figures was brought forward a month, meaning they came out immediately before Labour’s annual conference in Manchester. Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “It is a disgrace that there have been over 800 cases of MRSA in our hospitals in just three months.

“Labour have let down patients by caring more about spin than doing what it takes to root out infections.”

Professor Peter Borriello, of the Health Protection Agency’s Centre for Infections, said: “The reduction of healthcare associated infections is a big challenge throughout the world and the falls we are seeing in cases of MRSA bloodstream infections demonstrate the huge efforts being made by NHS staff to tackle these infections.

“The next challenge for the NHS will be to ensure that the downward trend continues and that we move to a position of zero tolerance.

“Of course, not all cases are preventable but if the fight against healthcare associated infections is to be won, it is vital that the measures which have achieved this significant success remain in place and that both the public and healthcare workers recognise the importance of these measures.”

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