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Grim toll of superbug deaths in hospitals

PUBLISHED: 12:42 29 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 07 September 2010

By Tan Parsons HOSPITALS in the area are struggling in the fight against killer superbugs on the wards. Both the Royal Free in Hampstead and St Mary s in Paddington have fared poorly in a new report from the Office of National Statistics. St Mary s has on

By Tan Parsons

HOSPITALS in the area are struggling in the fight against killer superbugs on the wards.

Both the Royal Free in Hampstead and St Mary's in Paddington have fared poorly in a new report from the Office of National Statistics.

St Mary's has one of the highest rates in the country for patient deaths involving the superbugs MRSA and Clostridium difficile. The report reveals 61 patients died after contracting C difficile from 2002 to 2006, while 32 patients died from MRSA in the same period.

The figures rank the Praed Street hospital in the worst five per cent of more than 1,000 institutions in England and Wales, including hospitals, hospices and nursing homes.

During the same time, The Royal Free saw 39 deaths from C difficile and 30 from MRSA, while the Whittington Hospital in Highgate had 33 deaths from C difficile and 22 with MRSA, and University College London Hospital in Euston had 18 from C difficile and 10 from MRSA.

But the chairman of the National Concern for Healthcare Infections patient group, Graham Tanner, feared the figures were underestimated by at least a third.

"The actual number of people who die as a result of healthcare-associated infections is masked by the fact that doctors don't rigorously apply guidelines to the completion of the medical certification of cause of death," he said.

"It should be remembered that these figures are about real people, and our sympathies go out to their families."

Earlier this year, St Mary's was one of four in London which failed to complete its deep clean project on time, and it was criticised by the Healthcare Commission last year for failing to reduce superbug infections sufficiently.

A St Mary's spokeswoman said that since November 2007, the hospital had had no cases where MRSA or C difficile had been cited as the primary cause of death.

"A raft of initiatives to tackle infections has been introduced since 2006, and the number of MRSA bloodstream infections has fallen by 60 per cent since 2005/06," she said.

"Infection control is a top priority for the hospital and we are continually reviewing our practices to ensure that we provide a clean and safe environment for patients.

"The number of cases of C difficile in patients aged 65 and over has also fallen by more than 50 per cent in the past year. We understand that there is still more work to do, however, and it is our goal to eradicate all hospital-acquired bloodstream infections."

She said the hospital had now introduced a "bare below the elbows" dress code to support effective hand washing and it is also starting a rolling programme where all clinical areas will be deep cleaned at least once a year.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Free said: "This hospital has an excellent track record of reducing infection rates for both MRSA and Clostridium difficile. The hospital has the lowest mortality rate in the country for the second year running and this is regarded as a good indicator of overall clinical performance, so this is a significant achievement for the hospital.

"We continue to put infection control measures as one of our top priorities, and we have recently been used as an example of good practice by the government for our robust deep cleaning programme."

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk


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