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Tuesday 22nd May 2018

More action needed on NHS bugs

26th April 2007

Data has shown an increase in the numbers of NHS hospital patients contracting the Clostridium difficile (C difficile) bug.


Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed 55,681 cases were registered in patients over 65 in 2006, compared to 51,767 cases the previous year. This represents a rise of 8% in a year. From 2004 to 2005, figures showed a 17% rise, indicating the rate of increase is decelerating.

C difficile develops when certain antibiotics disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the gut. The bug causes severe diarrhoea and can cause a life-threatening inflammation of the bowel. It can be particularly dangerous to vulnerable elderly patients.

The HPA described C difficile figures as "very high" and the Patients Association said stricter measures must be enforced in order to defend patients from bugs.

Patients Association spokeswoman Katherine Murphy said: "Too many people are dying from these infections. We must learn from other countries such as Holland which have got infection rates close to zero."

She called for all patients to be screened when entering hospital. At present, only high risk patients are tested.

MRSA cases continued to fall, but will not decrease in time to meet the target set for 2008. In 2004, John Reid, then secretary for health, said MRSA cases would be halved by April 2008. A recent government memo to the Department of Health said rates would only be reduced by a third.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker commented: "MRSA infection rates appear to show a continuing decline. However the figures for C difficile are less encouraging."

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