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Fear over MRSA rise

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 October 2009 | UPDATED: 08:45 01 August 2010

Dan Grimmer

Hospital bosses in the region are being asked to review their discharge policies of patients with MRSA as an influential working group raises concerns cases of the superbug will rise this winter.

Dan Grimmer

Hospital bosses in the region are being asked to review their discharge policies of patients with MRSA as an influential working group raises concerns cases of the superbug will rise this winter.

MRSA is linked to high bed occupancy rates and with a soaring demand for beds predicted over the coming months to cope with swine flu and other seasonal illnesses there are fears all the improvements made on eradicating the bug will be “undone”.

Currently superbug rates in the East of England are below the national average and in Norfolk hospitals have worked hard to reduce rates over the past two years.

The MRSA Working Group an influential group of doctors, scientists and patient representatives have called for the early discharge of appropriate patients to prevent a potential rise in infection rates. This is being supported by other prominent organisations such as the Patients Association.

It has written to all NHS hospitals in the East of England Strategic Health Authority area reminding them to review their policy for the early discharge of MRSA patients.

The expert group urges hospitals not to let increasing pressure on staff and rising bed occupancy rates reverse the good work they have done to date to reduce MRSA rates.

Katherine Murphy, of The Patients Association, who co-signed the letter, said: “There is a real risk that swine flu patients may block isolation beds resulting in patients' healthcare-associated infections such as MRSA being treated on general wards. This coupled with a highly pressured and reduced workforce, could increase the risk of infections such as MRSA spreading to other vulnerable patients and throughout the hospital.”

As reported last month the risk of contracting a superbug within hospitals in Norfolk is now lower than ever. The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the James Paget University Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn have all smashed through national targets for a 50pc reduction in the numbers and they all said MSRA policies are “very stringent”.

A spokesman for the N&N said: “Our hospitals have been getting busier and busier every year over the past four years and the rates of MRSA infection have correspondingly fallen every year over the same period.

“We have the lowest infection rates of any hospital in the county. Last year, for example, we treated more than 131,000 in-patient and day case patients but only 11 developed a hospital-associated MRSA infection. Our staff are already very focused on infection prevention and control and a flu pandemic serves only to increase, rather than decrease, our focus on those measures as a whole.”

At the JPUH 10 cases of MRSA were recorded against a “ceiling” of 11 for 2008/2009 and of these five occurred in patients who were admitted to the hospital with the infection already in their bloodstream.

Nick Coveney, director of nursing and patient services at the trust, said: “We have a range of stringent measures in place to tackle infection, including daily deep cleans in our core ward areas.

“Hospital-acquired infections are currently at their lowest ever level in this trust, which is a testament to the hard work of our staff, as well as the diligence of patients and visitors who have all taken on board the 'clean your hands' message.”

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